Last week Google announced that on July 1 they will be shutting down Google Reader. It’s a sad day for the internet as Google Reader had become the premier web-based RSS reader and the backbone of many RSS clients’ syncing systems.
RSS readers have never really taken off with mainstream users but us internet-savvy types have been using them for the better half of the past decade. It’s a shame because RSS is such an amazing tool and RSS readers allow users to build their own custom newspapers by funneling all their favorite websites into one place for easy reading.
But, Google has decided to shut down Reader anyway because “while the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.” This seems like a reasonable excuse for shutting down a product but — prepare for the conspiracy theory — what if Google decided to shut down Reader because RSS clients encourage internet users to view the web without advertising?
Why would Google want anyone to use a service that by its very nature encourages users to read the content of websites without ever having to visit the actual webpage? Google makes money when people see Google Ads but very few RSS feeds have any advertising at all and Google doesn’t even offer an option for publishers to place advertising in their feeds. Google decided to kill Adsense for Feeds late last year and with the end of Google Reader in site it’s clear that Google would rather people live without RSS readers.
Google has slowly stepped away from consumer-focused RSS which leaves me wondering how long until FeedBurner gets the axe? It’s been neglected for years and it’s only a matter of time before it falls victim to another round of “spring cleaning.”
I started moving away from Google products about four years ago when I stopped paying attention to FeedBurner’s statistics and started promoting an RSS feed that I have complete control over. Luckily I’ve already moved from Google Reader to Shaun Inman’s Fever so I don’t have to make the switch to a new RSS reader now. I’ve also moved away from Adsense in favor of advertising that is a little more reader-friendly and Google Analytics in favor of Mint.
I think now would be a good time for me to start thinking about moving away from Gmail. I doubt it will happen anytime in the next few years but eventually Google will decide to shut it down or make some fundamental change that breaks something I rely on. Switching email providers seems like an extremely messy task but it might be worth it to ensure that I don’t get cut off with less than four months notice.