We’ve learned last week about the programmed death of Google Reader, the not so amazing RSS reader from Google. As they mention themselves on the official blog, we’re all very sad – but what should we really learn from this terrible news?
Google is not a charity
Google is a public company with quite a few investors to please – if a product doesn’t bring any income after more than 8 years, I believe it’s normal to take it down. Google can’t just keep things live forever just to be nice.
Our definition of critical mass is different
Not making any money from Reader was certainly not caused by the lack of audience. As far as I know, Google properly monetizes the following consumer services: Search, Youtube, Maps, Play, Drive, Mail. Does that mean they can’t monetize the rest, or that their critical mass expectations are too high? What if Google had a target of 100 MAU before even starting to monetize Reader? Does it actually matter more for Google or Feedly if 500,000 users have moved to the latter in 48h? What is 500,000 users to Google anyway? Google’s threshold for considering a product as successful is without a doubt, above regular businesses’.
Free services don’t owe us anything
The scheduled shutdown of Google Reader and its users’ anger are the proof of an important fact: People have yet to understand that when a service is free – and proprietary, there’s nothing they should complain of when something goes wrong. Nothing. If they want something reliable, they could have a look at open source software and get involved!
RSS is nothing
Well, it’s a nice technology to deliver content. What matters is what people do with it, and from this viewpoint Google hasn’t done much apart from bringing its usual minimalism. There is a reason why so many news aggregators have launched for the past years: Reader was good at one and one thing only, which was being a basic RSS reader. Anything beyond got solved by other services, from Flipboard to Feedly. Check their websites, their homepage don’t mention RSS, at all.
The fact Google is currently losing users without caring is interesting. Of course, they knew this would happen. So why didn’t they announce anything to replace Reader? Why didn’t Google simply merge Reader with Google+ to bolt on their favorite baby? By cold killing this product, Google simply told the world RSS readers are not worth anymore. Would that mean mean they have something much better in mind, or would that mean they are completely wrong? Subscribe to my RSS feed and I’ll give you an answer.