Why did Google Reader have to die?

April 24, 2013
Are you lamenting the announced death of Google Reader? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Google recently announced that it is shutting down its RSS reader on July 1. The reason behind Google’s decision seems sensible: Reader was losing users. It was not an expanding service. Nonetheless, the death of Reader presents some interesting questions, both for consumers and Google. The main one? What’s to keep Google and others from stopping other cloud-based services? The answer? Nothing.


The impermanence of the cloud

The cloud is a great service. It allows us to access programs without needing to store them on our computers. However the cloud also isn’t all that permanent. Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo states that the demise of Google Reader should provide a lesson to all computer users out there: Nothing in the cloud is permanent. When Google introduced Reader in 2005, it marketed the service as one that would be around permanently. Obviously, it won’t be. And that’s a lesson that consumers should always remember: Nothing in the cloud is certain.


The downside of the cloud

Look at your favorite cloud-based programs today. Think of how much you use them. And then let yourself become a little nervous: There is nothing preventing the companies behind these programs from getting rid of them should they stop growing or generating money. This is completely different from the days when we stored nearly all of our software on our computers. If your favorite word-processing service was discontinued, you still had access to it. That’s not the case with cloud services. Gone means gone when it comes to the cloud.


A bleaker future for Google?

The death of Reader isn’t just sad news for fans of the RSS service. It’s also a challenge for Google, as the Economist magazine argues in a recent story. Nobody expects Google to continue funding under-performing products. But, how will consumers react the next time Google unveils a cloud-based product? Are they going to flock to it? Or will they hesitate, wondering when Google might kill it off? The demise of Reader might seem like a small matter to a company as powerful as Google. Yet the RSS service’s end might post some tricky challenges for Google in the future.

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