Google Reader, the popular RSS reader, is all but gone. Google declared that it would eliminate the service once July 1 rolls around. This has hit a number of the service’s biggest fans hard. The truth, though, is that there are alternatives. Google decided to close the service because its user base was steadily decreasing. Nevertheless the closing of Google Reader offers an important lesson to consumers: There’s no guarantee that your chosen, free cloud service won’t disappear, also.
The cloud is an excellent service. It allows us to access programs without having to store them on our computers. Even so the cloud also isn’t all that permanent. Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo says that the demise of Google Reader should provide a lesson to all computer users out there: Nothing in the cloud is permanent. When Google introduced Reader in 2005, it marketed the service as one that would be around permanently. Obviously, it won’t be. And that’s a lesson that consumers should keep in mind: Nothing in the cloud is guaranteed.
This can be considered a downside to the cloud. In the days when software came on discs and we downloaded it to our computers, there was more permanence. Sure, companies would close shop and manufacturers would discontinue software. Nevertheless, you still had access to software, even though the companies behind it terminated it. Since of course, it was saved on your computer and you still had the discs. This isn’t the case with the cloud. When something is yanked from the cloud, it is gone.
Issues for Google
The death of Reader isn’t just sad news for fans of the RSS service. It’s also a challenge for Google, as the Economist magazine argues in a recent story. No one is expecting Google to continue funding under-performing products. Even so, how will consumers react the next time Google unveils a cloud-based product? Will they flock to it? Or are they going to pause, wondering when Google might kill it off? The demise of Reader may seem like a small matter to a company as powerful as Google. Yet the RSS service’s end might post some tricky challenges for Google in the future.