Since October 2011, Google shot down some services, softwares or tools. Today, Google announced their last closures. Of course, each time it affects some users, but this time, one service seems to make a lot of noise. And that one is Google Reader.
Google Reader is basically an online aggregator of web feeds. The user can add his favorite RSS feeds so he does not have to browse to all the websites of interest. The feeds will provides the headlines and the user will follow the link only on interesting news.
Referring to Google, Google Reader usage declined over the years, mostly because our habits have changed. It is certainly true. Robert Scoble was one of the first to react and according to his opinion, “Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds”. Our habits have changed, and some information is consumed trough other kind of media. Social networks or other services like Flipboard which aggregates the information. Unfortunately, Flipboard allowed to add personal sources of information trough… Google Reader… But I bet that they will replace it by their own aggregation service.
So, the usage may have declined, but this announcement just generated more noise than any other. Google is currently shutting down 7 services, and this one is draining all the attention. According to Darren Rowse, Google Reader was the first RSS reader of his readers. He even posted the link to the petition to keep Google Reader. So maybe, even if the usage declined, there was still a relevant number of users.
For most analysts, Google is trying to drain those users to its social network, Google+. Of course, social network and feeds aggregation are not the same. Neither is their value for Google. From the feeds in Google Reader, Google could only track your raw interest. But from a social network, if you find the article interesting, you’ll share it, you’ll “+1” it. You’ll give Google a value to the link.
Of course, the risk is that you’ll not share it on Google+ but Facebook or Twitter. Maybe, but Google+ is a growing service and Google most certainly focus on this growth.
But still, a social network is not a RSS feed. Really ? Remember what I have quoted from Robert Scoble earlier. Web editors know that normal people don’t subscribe to RSS feeds. So, to get an audience, they publish all their posts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and sometimes even LinkedIn. Of course, there is no categorization, no dedicated feed, but a preview and the link to the content is there.
Now, we can comment this news as much as we want, the faith of Google Reader is sealed. What should be pointed out is how much we are becoming dependent on third party services. Aggregating RSS feeds is a simple service. The closing of such a service should not affect us. But obviously, it does. And that is what bothers me…