Google Reader, the popular RSS reader, is all but dead. Google recently announced that it would eliminate the service once July 1 rolls around. This has hit several of the service’s biggest fans hard. The reality, though, is that there are other choices. Google decided to close the service since its user base was progressively falling. Nevertheless the closure of Google Reader provides an important lesson to consumers: There’s no guarantee that your chosen cloud service won’t disappear, also.
An ever-changing cloud
In an intriguing story on Slate, writer Farhad Manjoo wrote about Google’s promotion of Reader when the company first launched it in 2005. Back then, Google referred to the RSS service as if it would be part of the Google universe forever. Consumers believed them, and quite a few embraced the service. Now, of course, it is disappearing. And the takeaway? Consumers should never be surprised when one of their preferred free Web-based services does the same.
The pitfall with the cloud
As Manjoo writes, Reader’s death highlights one of the main downsides of cloud-based software: It can be highly impermanent. You will never know if your preferred service will disappear. Of course, back in the days before the cloud grew to be so popular, all of us had favorite word-processing systems, spreadsheet programs and game series that manufacturers suddenly discontinued. But you could still access those programs on your own discs. With cloud services, though, that’s not the case. When they’re gone, they’re gone, as fans of Reader will soon learn.
Consumers aren’t the only ones facing challenging issues with the demise of Reader. Google does, too. As the Economist explains in a recent story, when Google introduces a new product, it expects users to flock to it. But why should consumers do this if there’s the possibility that Google will just eliminate the applications? Eliminating Reader may have made financial sense for Google. Nevertheless, it could cause consumers to hesitate before embracing the company’s next cloud-based service.