Blog Post

Sorry Google; you can Keep it to yourself

Google (s GOOG) today launched Keep, an app that allows you to save things, clip stuff from the web, hoard notes and what not and put them all onto your Google Drive. Yup, you guessed it — it is an imitation to Evernote and many other such applications. It is a good thing that Google has decided to compete with the likes of Evernote — it validates their market.

It might actually be good, or even better than Evernote. But I still won’t use Keep. You know why? Google Reader.

I spent about seven years of my online life on that service. I sent feedback, used it to annotate information and they killed it like a butcher slaughters a chicken. No conversation — dead. The service that drives more traffic than Google+ was sacrificed because it didn’t meet some vague corporate goals; users — many of them life long — be damned.

Google KeepLooking from that perspective, it is hard to trust Google to keep an app alive. What if I spend months using the app, and then Google decides it doesn’t meet some arbitrary objective? Evernote has my data and frankly, I’m glad to pay them to keep it because they are who they are. One of the reasons I use Evernote is because it is their only thing. (For now.) Evernote is focused on making the service better. And it keeps that focus every year.

Evernote is like Derek Jeter, playing shortstop and trying to win every day. Google? It is the digital Mr. Ripley.

Sorry Google, but you might not realize that you are acting like the company you wanted to replace: Microsoft (s MSFT). The Barons of Redmond used to float products into the market — smart displays and weird stuff — that companies like Samsung and LG would put out in the market, only to yank them later. In the end, I stopped believing in Microsoft and shifted my dollars and attention to other brands.

And by the way – how is this app strategic for you guys and Reader is not? A little clarity would certainly be appreciated.

How about a pledge? If you build it, we use it, and you use our personal data to make your other products better or your ad sales executives richer, then you will keep it around.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dano

350 Responses to “Sorry Google; you can Keep it to yourself”

  1. I think the difference here is that Google has given users the option to pull everything from Google Reader and transfer it to another product very easily. This isn’t some expensive hardware that will not be supported anymore soon after its release. You didn’t really invest money. While you did invest your hard-earned time, they’ve given you an easy out. You can continue your Reader life in a new form. I simply moved to another RSS reader within minutes with all my information intact.

    Google’s been giving users the option to take their data with them when Google shuts down a product they don’t want to support anymore. Let Google focus on the stuff they want to focus stuff on… like every other company.

    I love Google Reader, but other companies seem to have no problem stepping up and taking over. I have no doubt that these companies will exceed Google Reader in terms of quality.

    If Google Keep manages to make it into one of Google’s Spring Cleaning massacres, then they will no doubt offer a way for you to take your March 2013 grocery list with you to another service that does exactly what Keep does.

    • Speak for yourself. Lots of media companies spent money building tools on top of Google Reader for their journalists. These are private software tools so you can’t see any of them. And most of these companies pay Google for Google Apps so we felt like were financially supporting Google Reader.

  2. A.X. Ian

    Google has killed far too many products for me to even try and take their new initiatives seriously.

    If you live on the edge and don’t care where your data ultimately ends up, then investing into new Google services is right up your alley. But I want continuity and some kind of a commitment.

    The only constant with Google is AdWords and maybe Gmail. Everything else could disappear into the black hole for very arbitrary reasons. I can’t even put Google Analytics into that column because one they they might decide to EOL the service.

  3. Srini Vemula

    I am with you Om when it comes to spending majority of my aggregation and consumption happening through reader for the last many years. I was shocked by the way google pulled the plug on reader, there was little regard to the number of people who were in love with it. It was not like there was a backlash like what happened for Google Wave or Buzz, or neither was the case that competition was way a head when it comes to a similar product.

    It could have done many things to give it a new lease of life, even make it a little more painful for the user to consume that content (How about a Google Ad for every 25 reader entries?) or mix it up with other services to increase their usage. There were many users who would have sucked up to some of this and still used Google Reader. I cannot believe that all the smarts at google didnt have a monetization strategy for it.

    Reader consumers were mostly geeks, and google is forgetting that these geeks were the early adopters of Google+. They are the ones who become unofficial google product testers and make a lot of noise and write free reviews.

    Google in the past did launch arguably better products after sunseting some product like what has happened here with Keep which was the erstwhile Google Notebook. So may be we would one day see Reader don a new avatar, but it would have felt a lot better if Google had a dialogue before doing it what it did to Reader

  4. But Google already had this product. It was called Google Notebook, and they screwed over their customers way back then:

    Does anyone else feel that this is just a game of musical Internet data? Notebook, Evernote, Reader, Pinterest, blah blah blah. The web is a mess and people need fashionable ways to organize the data that interests them.

  5. I have mixed emotions here. I use Evernote and Reader, but I won’t be able to resist trying Keep to see how it works. I like Evernote but the integration with Google Drive is tempting. What to do? Sorry Evernote, but I think the hand writing may be on the wall for you and I don’t think it will take long to know it.

  6. This is one of the most substantive statement here.

    > And by the way – how is this app strategic for you guys and Reader is not? A little clarity would certainly be appreciated.

    Coming from people of influence, it makes the matter all the more important. I am sure people of Google are watching and they wouldn’t feel wise to be ignoring such sentiments.

    • AA
      I just visited your blog. I liked your profile image (I think it is a depiction of Yama, the Bull-headed Buddhist Demon god of death, who, though busy, makes sure to satisfy his marital obligations to his wife, i.e. a good husband).

      While there, I read this post, about your thoughts on Google Reader, and RSS feeds:

      Thank you. It was excellent.
      By the way, Dave Winer never listens to me either. He says he’s friendly… right. NOT! I had the same thing happen to me that you described. I appreciate that you shared.

  7. I’m with you Om, I loved how reader was seamlessly integrated with other google services, and i also have used the service since it was first deployed. Noting how search seems to have degraded in quality, i wonder how removing reader will further worsen search. Reader and + are complements not overlapped services… it’s makes one wonder.. what’s those product mangers in MtV thinking.

  8. that’s what i thought, i just cant believe their freemium service now

    if i only want to write note, i think a paid evernote would be suitable, althought their web interfaces is ugly, but its still better than just shutdown and throw you away

    and if google want to make it more sns on the keep service, then i am worried about it would follow the GR’s way and i think the exists note service would be shutdown sooner

  9. Google’s strategy is very simple, and it is much like Facebook and Apple.

    IF someone launches an app on your platform and everyone uses it – make your own version of that app and take their traffic.

    IF someone has a very popular website (lets say…oh Yelp or perhaps Wikipedia or Travelocity or even Amazon), release your own competing service and compete directly against their search results.

    How come you haven’t sworn off Google Places, Google+, GMail and Google Travel if you have religious objections to Google competing with existing product categories?

  10. @dumbledore … confidence in Google and their products was the main thing lost.

    One big gain for me was being pushed into looking at alternatives. Turns out they did me a favor as Newsblur (and Feedly, and The Old Reader, and etc) were better than Reader in many ways.

    Makes me wonder what I’ve been missing in email clients. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks to Google for making me more aware of their competitors.

  11. Justin Bolstad

    Maybe it doesn’t integrate well with where they want to go with g+? Can anyone clarify what the strategy is with talk? Why aren’t video chats archived? I’d imagine there being a lot of value in being able to replay, tag motion &/or objects in a feed to be worth it, no?

  12. dumbledore

    is this linkbait please some one explain to me what you lost. you can export your feeds and import it into a hundred different products. so what was exactly lost ?

    • I think you totally under appreciate the syncing aspect of Google Reader. And what I lost – expectation of consistency of a product from a company that wants us to switch from one product we use to their offering.

      • dumbledore

        >expectation of consistency of a product

        If everyone thought like you we’d still be using mapquest and aol mail.

        basically not a whole lot.

      • If I only started using apps that I thought would be around for more than nine years, I wouldn’t be using any web based apps. I might feel different when I’m older and my brain has lost some more of its plasticity so I’m less excited about learning new interfaces.

      • Actually, dumbledore, you still can use Mapquest and AOL mail. Which is the point. If AOL shut down email to focus on their media properties there would be a lot of bitter users.

    • Mostly Nerd

      I think this is an inconvenience. But reading news through RSS was dying anyway, with Zite, Currents and Flipboard. I am myself a heavy user of Google Reader but I know that I can (with a little inconvenience) still continue to use this in many many different RSS aggregating services. like Feedly in chrome, or Press.

    • Data Big Bang

      No, you can’t.

      With Google Reader you can add a feed now and go back years, even if that information was not available anymore. With Google Reader you can autotranslate blog feeds. For example I was reading a russian blog, just when I shared it a friend asked me: “do you speak russian?”.

    • It is not about using an alternative product. Google killed reader and it probably has more active users than G+. But they didn’t even give a proper explanation. Now if they suddenly kill GMail ( They wont do it because they gather more information about you from your mails..) and then youtube etc… They can do it and they will in future because they just don’t care about you…

    • You’re ignoring three features that other products cannot match.

      1. As Om noted, sync. This won’t be easy to duplicate.

      2. Search; Google’s search is integrated in Google Reader. By placing a bunch of feeds in a folder, you can create your own mini version of the web by searching that folder.

      3. Cache/Stars: Google Reader keeps every item in every feed. Also, you can star items. We built a tool for ourselves on top of the API to export starred items and then unstar them. No other product will have this functionality.

    • Leonid S. Knyshov

      OK I’ll explain.

      I subscribe to the feed.

      After 7 days, articles on that site go behind the paywall. They are high value.

      In Google Reader, I have an archive that has full copies of those articles with full text search. Pehub is just one example. I have hundreds of subscriptions full of similar content.

      Google Takeout exports the metadata but not the data itself.

      • I wish I had the luxury of picking and choosing when it comes to new Google products. If there’s any chance it may be interpreted as a “social signal”, I’ve at least got to get my feet wet with it…

  13. damn all this hate when all google’s done is *slightly* expanded the capabilities of drive. its not googles fault evernote targeted a pointlessly small corner of the market….

    who cares? this is age old technology either way.

      • Insulting? Every product will eventually stop to exist. People have to learn to move on. Despite David’s faulty grammar I say he makes a very valid point.

        See if someone in the year 2040 still uses ANY software we use today. Technologies come and go, and when they go we simply need to find and start using a replacement.

    • The vast majority of alternatives currently use the Reader API, servers, and crawlers to fetch and serve data into their interfaces. When Google pulls the plug on that back-end, Feedly et al will have to fend for themselves. And without the resources of a multibillion dollar search giant, I think people such as yourself will be surprised to find that a few startup’s built-in-three-months replacement infrastructure is not nearly up to snuff.

      • I use Thunderbird to manage all my RSS channels.
        Emails, RSS and calendar in one place.
        Do you need anything more?
        ..also try ‘Liferea’ and ‘Akregator’ on Linux and ‘BeyondPod’ on Android.
        Your ability to adapt to a new situation is a measure of your success in the modern world. etc…

      • scottishwildcat13

        Yes, lots of us need “anything more”. Most of us don’t live on a single device any more, so apps that only store local copies of everything aren’t so useful.

    • scottishwildcat13

      Then you’re obviously not one of the many people who uses Reader to sync their feed reading activities between various apps and devices, for which (as yet) there is no real alternative.

  14. thedude

    Yeah I was thinking the same thing too, why bother, they’ll end up killing it sooner or later. What surprises me in all this Reader kerfuffle is why havent more G+ users closed their accounts in protest?

    • Jared Tepper

      Apparently because “throwing a massive tantrum when something doesn’t go your way” isn’t as popular as the loudest and stupidest of the Internet has made it seem over the last few days.

      This is about as nonsensical an article as I’ve ever seen here; “Arbitrary corporate goals?” How in god’s name is _usage of the product_ (which was low and declining) an “arbitrary goal”? The author apparently seems to think that a more relevant metric for determining whether a product is EOL or not is “whether or not Om Malik likes it”. The childishness of the response of Reader users has been staggering (and pathetic).

      • Sérgio Carvalho

        The low and declining usage argument is debunked by comparing the observed activity on G+ and GReader, as Om Malik correctly pointed in the article. It’s further weakened by the lack of investment in GReader by Google; the investment was actually in *removing* sharing features so people would migrate to G+.

        The next argument in line is that GReader was free, so users can’t complain. It is debunked by the fact that many users state that they would pay for the product to continue (I would). Users *can’t* pay for the product.

        The fact of the matter is that the EOL of GReader was a strategic decision. It’s perfectly OK for Google to do that. It’s also perfectly OK for users like Om Malik to draw the conclusion that any new product by Google is subject to the same strategic risks, which do not exist when the product is core to the company (Evernote, Dropbox).

        There are other risks, sure, chief among them the economic viability of Evernote or Dropbox. However, if Evernote or Dropbox charge for the service and are popular, economic viability is a minor risk.

        The conclusion is valid. For the same product, Evernote is better than Keep, when evaluating the probability of the product being alive in the long term.

      • Buck Rogers

        You know why it was low and declining?! Because they stopped supporting it years ago, yet people still loved it. It amazes me how high and mighty stupid people like you are, but hey you keep the intelligent people in business. ;P Google Reader has a lot of 3rd party development over it also, which in itself is amazing. However, Google is trying to get a piece of everyone’s actions, they are all about money. Really how much money is enough? All I really have to say is when a company has a moto of, ‘We’re not Evil’….how Evil are they?!

      • Keith Milner

        The observed activity data comparing G+ and Greader page referrals from Buzzfeed is a broken statistic: best case it was an error by someone who doesn’t understand statistics, worst case it’s a lie.

        The reason being that it was based on page referrals from the two products, but that is only a valid statistic if all stories had been posted equally on both platforms. They have not.

        Buzzfeed’s RSS feed is very rich, containing every story they post. Only the occasional story gets cross-posted to their G+ page. Doing a quick survey of the two, there are more stories in the Buzzfeed RSS stream just for today, than there are in their G+ stream for the whole of the last month. When the posting rate is so much lower, it’s hardly surprising the page referral rate is so much lower.

        As I said, the statistic is nonsense and the result of either incompetence or outright lying.

        It also ignore the nature of the two products. RSS is primarily a publishing mechanism to attract readers to click-through to your story, and the primary reason people use tools like Reader is to consume such content.

        Google+ can do this, but it’s not it’s primary purpose and not the main reason people use it. The same applies to Facebook. Comparing an RSS feed reader with a social network is broken logic.

  15. tnaseem

    I was thinking the exact same thing. Glad I’m not the only one!

    It will be interesting to see how much fall out there is since ditching Google Reader. A lot of trust has been lost since then I imagine (not to mention the previous apps that they dumped in the past!)

    It will take a lot for me to trust them to keep any new services running. Why invest all your data into something that may not last. Especially, a service that’s taking aim at already established services like Evernote.

    Like you’ve mentioned, Evernote, Dropbox, etc are their respective core businesses. They’ll continue as long as the companies exist.

    Google, it appears, is trying to stick it’s fingers in everything; see if it works. If not, or some time down the line, someone decides it’s not worth the hassle, then ditch it.

    I’ll pass thanks :) And this coming from a Google fanboy…

    • Lamarr Wilson

      A lot of GEEK trust MAY have been lost, but geeks are less than 10% of the market. I’m pretty sure Google isn’t that concerned when 90% of the audience didn’t mind or care about Google Reader and they WILL use this new tasks/notes software.

      It’s not always about US.

      • Its the geek who tries new products and give useful feedback. Also its geek’s blog posts that allow non-geek to make decisions. If geek lost the trust its big loss in marketing and 90% of feedback.

      • tnaseem

        As has already been said by the other commenters, it’s us ‘10%’ that evangelize these products. Win us over, and you win a LOT of people over eventually. It mushrooms from there.

        I can’t even count the number of people I’ve hooked into services like Gmail, Dropbox and Evernote, over the years!

        Not to mention that some are even more influential in the industry, and can have a big affect on how well a service like this is perceived.

        So, we DO matter; More than you think.

      • They may use it…. at least until the geek who fixes their machine notices they’re using it and tells them about what happened to Reader and recommends Evernote or Simplenote.

    • In my experience GEEKS are the ones that tell the main flow which service is good to use. We are the ones that are the early adopters and testers and if we don’t like it or do not see potential in it than it’s a lot harder for a service to make it.

      • Eugene K


        If you assume “geeks” as early adopters of technology, and main stream as mid to late adopters who pile on after a technology gains critical mass, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a technology will only gain critical mass if the early adopters recommend and stick with it. This also carries the assumption of organic user growth. In case of a monopoly like Windows and for a very long time, IE, users had no choice. That is why the restrictions placed on Microsoft in regards to the browser ballot in the EU is so important. Given a choice, what do you think would bubble up to the top? According to this study on the browser market share in the EU, it definitely seems that what was forced upon us was not the preferred choice.

    • > Google, it appears, is trying to stick it’s fingers in everything; see if it works.

      Actually, I think that’s a good thing. It creates competition! And competition leads to improving services. Maybe Keep will have some features that haven’t been there before in similar apps, and maybe Evernote will come along and ‘borrow’ that idea. In the end, that’s a win for both Keep _and_ Evernote users, so why not?

      > If not, or some time down the line, someone decides it’s not worth the
      > hassle, then ditch it.

      Sure, canceling an app that you have used yourself is surely disappointing at first. But after all, you’re not paying Google to access for the service (well, other than by looking at ads here and there). And (in case of Reader) since you can export all the feeds you were subscribed to, nobody prevents you from switching to another (possibly better) service.

      I think in many cases the big frustration is caused by a reluctance to change. People don’t like change (as can be seen with the enraged comments after every single UI update a website makes (Facebook, Google+, etc.)). And in case of canceling an app, it _forces_ people to change their habits. But sometimes you have to realize that the change might actually for the better, it might lead you to a product that is completely superior.

      So with regards to Keep: give it a try! If you like it, use it. If not, then not. And if it gets canceled at some point, well, export your data and move on to the next app. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

      • Jeremiah

        The frustration is caused by incorporating a product into a trusted system only to have it yanked from your workflow capriciously. It comes from having to restructure the way you do things because a company didn’t deem an offering acceptably profitable. This “it’s free, so you should expect x” mentality is crap. First, it’s not free. You pay for it in ways that may not have value to you, but ways that make Google an awful lot of money. If people carried the mindset that their service was subject to cancellation with every Google product, which is what’s happening now, they wouldn’t have a population to mine for data.

        Google’s “spring cleanings” have circled the periphery of their offerings for years, pissing off an insignificant population (by % of users) with every round. They’ve finally axed a product with a huge following and now that perception is carrying over into every one of their offerings.

      • Change 4 Change?

        ” But sometimes you have to realize that the change might actually for the better”

        so let me guess, you like the MS ribbon ;-)

        sorry, I know Google thread, but couldn’t resist.

        Wouldn’t it have been nice if Goo-gel either open-sourced it, or opened it for sale to it’s dedicated users? Or made it a pay for service? I haven’t used it myself, but judging from a lot of comments I’ve seen about it and how people made their lively hoods using it, I would think enough would ante up.

        On the flip side, I guess the expression ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’ is fitting, especially if their from a google of geese.

      • google didn’t create competition with Reader – they decimated the RSS application market by pushing a free app to displace the alternatives. Then, after the alternatives were reduced in market share and relevance, they killed Reader. how was any of that good for competition?

    • The 10% may help evangelize users to use a product, or not as seen by Google Reader. Listening to the 10% sounds like Google Reader has been a huge success, but then Google wouldn’t kill it.

      Still Google should listen and let Reader live and develop it on ;)

    • I agree violently: this is the right decision for the wrong reason. You shouldn’t avoid Google Keep because they killed Reader. You should avoid Google Keep because *they already killed Keep when it was named Notebook*. Reader alone is merely a weak reason to avoid non-core Google products in general; but avoiding a release of a product they already killed is a very good reason.

      • Jeremy Toeman

        I disagree. If a company shows a pattern that they (seemingly arbitrarily) kill products that you *RELY* on, then launch other products whose success/use is dependent on a user base to rely on it, that is merit to not use. Examples:

        Imagine repainting your house using a given brand’s paint. Then that color gets pulled from the market, with no replacement. Would you ever buy that brand’s paint again?

        Imagine buying cars from a brand year after year, only to discover that the company stopped providing replacement parts suddenly for all older models. Would you buy a new truck from that company?

        Internet products *REQUIRE* trust, and Google has betrayed the trust of many a user. Will be very, very hard to regain it…

      • Jeremy’s right. I’m outraged that Ford no longer sells parts for their 1927 Model T Ford. I will never buy a truck from them again. Apple also deserves to be pilloried because they don’t sell replacement motherboards for their Apple IIc.

  16. You guys should have called Reader a moonshot and hype it up, everything would be fine. Keep is just a test for the new drive API, it also highlights how lousy Google still is in integration of data models (Location, Calendar, Notes, …..).

  17. It is almost like Google did a lobotomy on the Internet with the decision to cancel Reader. People had too much independent thinking, not enough on Google’s terms.