Okay, I’ll admit it I’m more than a little ticked off at Google today. I fully realize that is about as meaningful as being mad at the weather (and as effective), but on PI day and Einstein’s Birthday, Google killed Google Reader. My lovely wife asked me this AM, “what is Google reader and why do I care?” Reader is the RSS platform which a ton of cool and interesting, but not typically very commercial, stuff is based. It’s the glue behind things like Digg and Reddit (my wife Loooves Reddit), and Google just announced that it goes away on July 1st.
Google has made a tradition of trying out lots of stuff and letting it run for a while. Then, either expanding it or shutting it down depending how it does. Not everything they do makes money, but the stuff that does makes absolute fortunes for them. Reader never made much money (as far as I can tell they never really tried to make money with it), but it was widely available easy to plug into as a way to manage RSS, and it worked really well. It worked so well that lots of other folk hung businesses around it. When it’s gone, unless someone like Digg or Reddit steps up and develops an open source replacement, it will likely stick a stake through the heart of RSS as a whole.
What makes me sad (apart from the likely impact it will have on stuff I love like FlipBook), is that the money it costs Google to keep this excellent public service going has to be absolutely minimal. The other day I blogged about the trivial $7Million dollar fine imposed on them by states AG for collecting personal data they shouldn’t have been. I don’t think this is a spiteful revenge act on the part of Google to a society, which doesn’t anymore always worship its every move, but taking away one of our best and most useful public service components feels a bit mean. I’d be happy to trade Google Translate (bablefish works fine), the useless Google talk, and maybe Fusion Tables (whatever the heck they are), for the beating heart of RSS. Once Reader is gone, how much longer will RSS last?