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
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.