Google is shutting down more projects it considers distracting to core business. So far it has shut down 70 such apps and services, but it is Google Reader whose loss I bemoan.


Google is doing a second round of spring cleaning — its euphemism for small projects it finds unworthy of its time and efforts — and is killing off a whole bunch of projects, the biggest of them being Google Reader. In a blog post Wednesday afternoon, Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of Technical Infrastructure, announced the pending closure:

Everyone has a device, sometimes multiple devices. It’s been a long time since we have had this rate of change—it probably hasn’t happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago. To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus—otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact. So today we’re announcing some more closures, bringing the total to 70 features or services closed since our spring cleaning began in 2011

Image (3) google-reader.jpg for post 28194

The other projects that are being euthanized include Google Voice for Blackberry, Calendar API, Snapseed for desktop, Search API for shopping and others. However, it is the loss of Google Reader that is going to impact a lot of people — especially those of us who actually love using RSS feeds to plow through hundreds of feeds. I use it in combination with Reeder app on my iPad, iPhone and Macbook Pro to stay on top of the technology world.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

I take issue with Urs’ comments about usage declining. It declined because the company put no resources into the product and took away social features that made it useful for many. It was a project that was orphaned because it didn’t fit into Google’s vision of a machine-driven reading experience. Despite minimal resources devoted to it, Google Reader was one of the better apps built by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

It is probably my second-most used Google service — after GMail — and I have always been befuddled by Google’s lack of desire to make Google Reader into a bigger reading platform. It could and it still can evolve into a Flipboard type service, but that would mean that Google would have to put resources and some real creative thought into Reader.

I wish they would reconsider this decision or, better yet, release the project into the open-source community so that someone can build a follow-on product.

Update: Folks from Feed.ly are offering an option for all of us left at the altar by Google’s decisions.

Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader. This is something we have been expecting for some time: We have been working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API – running on Google App Engine. When Google Reader shuts down, feedly will seamlessly transition to the Normandie back end. So if you are a Google Reader user and using feedly, you are covered: the transition will be seamless.

A Feedly spokesperson tells us:

Our goal is to have the API be identical to the Google Reader un-official API. So any client which plugs in to the API should be to easily migrate to Normandy. There are just a few things around authentication and ordering of categories and feeds which might be different.

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  1. Brian W. Crumley Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    This google reader news makes me sad. I’d be willing to pay for it if they would keep it going.

    1. Yeah. The funny thing is they didn’t even ask for money.

  2. Hi, small typo in the first line of your last paragraph, “me” should be “my”.

    1. Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for catching that. Fixed.

  3. Harveen Narulla Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Google vacates reader market – classic ceding of ‘low value’ territory playing out.

  4. no, help, what? I use it like crazy. What do I do?

    1. Trying to find answers myself

      1. Giridhar Sampathkumar Om Malik Wednesday, March 13, 2013

        There is another service called SwarmIQ. You guys should check it out!

  5. Kathy Holzapfel Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Oh, snap! I really like Google Reader; use it multiple times a day. Om, I’m curious what RSS alternative you will switch to.

    I also have to find a replacement for iGoogle, which is being killed in November. Figures – I had just found the perfect combo of widgets.

    1. Kathy

      My immediate bet would be something like Reeder running off an OPML file off my Dropbox account. I don’t see any other option just yet. I do find Feedly very useful.

    2. I’m a long time user of Google Reader and this news is like a punch in the gut.

      I’ve started kicking the tires of The Old Reader (http://theoldreader.com) and so far it looks like it is a pretty nice alternative – the UI is like a previous version of Google Reader…the version I liked the most. It is worth a look.

  6. I was heartbroken on opening GR today. I always have Gmail and GR open on my web browser. I use it to browse hundreds of blogs quickly. It’s also the sole means I use to post to Google+. What the heck are they thinking? Google, stop trying to be Facebook! I realize you can’t be everything to everyone but this has to be the dumbest idea from a major tech corporation since that one company launched Wave. Oh wait…

  7. Terrible news. I use Reader everyday on multiple devices. Wish they would reconsider this one.

  8. podcastsivelistenedto Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    In that all the alternative services are being smoked tonight should give Google an indication of the kind of usage they had. (Like they didn’t already know.)

  9. Matías Attwell Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    I wonder if the Google Listen mobile app will go down along with Reader. They started tied up together, they still are, but now you do have a way of adding subscriptions on the Google Listen app independently.

  10. Jordan Mendelblatt Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Dammit. Besides email there is no other app I use on my phone more than Google Reader.

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