Talking tech since 2003

It appears that the “Google+ or bust” mentality at Google has claimed its latest victim. This time, it isn’t just the social networking elements and the “Share” button inside Reader, Google’s popular RSS client, but the entire service. Google posted on its blog yesterday that Google Reader will be shutting down on July 1, leaving many feed-reading fanatics in the lurch.

Personally, I haven’t been this heartbroken about a service since FriendFeed was purchased by Facebook back in 2009. And, much to everyone’s surprise, that site continues to live on despite the fact that Facebook isn’t actively working on it anymore. Leaving a site up for the benefit of its most passionate users? What company would do such a thing? Apparently, Facebook would. But Google Reader won’t be as lucky. Instead, it’ll journey into the afterlife along with countless other Google products that weren’t a fraction as popular. Because, you know, Google+.

There are many alternative RSS clients available on the Web and on the desktop, and many content aggregation apps (like Flipboard and Pulse) on mobile platforms, but none are as simple and straightforward to use as Google Reader. It’s one of the most well-designed applications to come out of Google in a very long time — probably since Gmail. Reader knows what it’s supposed to do and it does it well. You subscribe to a feed and items show up in a list, much like you’re looking at your email inbox. To quote so many Apple keynotes, “It just works.”

It became a little less functional after Google removed all of its social features in an attempt to make Google+ look more attractive, but it still shines as an RSS reader if you don’t mind a few extra clicks to share items with your social networks. But the revelation that Google Reader still drives more traffic to websites than Google+ couldn’t have sat well with executives, especially since it has become clear over time that Google Reader wasn’t a project a lot of people believed in from the get-go.

So product-A.D.D.-suffering Google will kill off Google Reader as it launches a myriad of new apps and services, likely pumping a lot of work into them, only to let them collect dust later as it moves on to new shiny objects. New media types will come forward and say, “Who needs Google Reader when you have Twitter?” And to them, I’ll say that you’re spending way too much time waiting for good content to come to you — time spent sifting through the noise, clicking on a shortened link to see if an article is worth reading, or going back through thousands of tweets to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Google Reader was like that comfortable chair in the corner of the den. It was the place you could go to escape the Twitter waterfall for a little bit and read about anything your heart desired. My Google Reader account keeps me up to date with more than just the top news stories — it lets me read the latest stuff from local bloggers, as well as posts about interests I have that those I follow might not.

As I prepare to say goodbye, I’ll look back and remember the good times. All the great discussions that took place before Google nixed Reader’s social elements. The way Reader served as such a useful tool for me to track Google search mentions for marketing clients. How a craigslist RSS feed inside Reader helped me move into my first apartment in Harrisburg. Reader and I won’t be making any memories like those after July 1, “But at least Google+ is there to fill the void” — said no one.

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