I run my business largely on Google's platform: email, files, calendar, my telephone number and easy syncing across multiple devices. I'm also a power user of Google's Android mobile operating system - it's my choice for both phone and tablet. Of course, Google is my default search engine and mapping program. And like many journalists, academics, and information obsessed geeks, I organized the RSS feeds from blogs and news sites that I followed with Google Reader.
Last week in my Forbes column, I joined the general din of outrage among hard-core Reader users when Google announced it was killing the service.
Does Google understand the concept of corporate social responsibility? That seems to be the basic question around the company’s strange decision to shut down a tiny service that serves as a major audience conduit for many thousands of bloggers, citizen journalists, and self publishers.
Google’s announcement today that it is destroying Google Reader, the most popular RSS syndication tool was a massive blow to the blogging community – and to most of those speaking out tonight via social media, an entirely unnecessary attack on an important corner of the public Internet by a company with more than $50 billion in revenue and a newly-won reputation as a tech giant on the move.
Don't forget, Google launched Reader to gain an important niche in the news world - and because of its dominance in search and email, Reader quickly became the largest RSS outlet in the world. But Google seems obsessed with its failed social media platform G+ and is apparently interested in competing with Amazon and Apple on paid magazine and news subscriptions. So Reader became a cost center of limited value....or so the Google chieftains believed.
In fact, the decision to shutter Reader has been a disaster for Google because the company alienated that key user base so completely (and cluelessly, if you ask me). For the couple million it probably saved in not maintaining Reader, it lost many untold millions in social capital and negative publicity, threatening the reception of its upcoming Glass product - and leading most of the tech press to mock this week's release of its new note-taking product, Google Keep.
The headlines told the story - nobody trusts Google to keep a service, even if its successful in winning adoption.
Om Malik was particularly tough - and on point:
Sorry Google, but you might not realize that you are acting like the company you wanted to replace: Microsoft. 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 so on. It really is a matter of trust, and that's something that co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin don't seem to understand. Sure, they're great at innovation for a large company. But where's the sense of common cause, the recognition that social capital actually matters over the long term.
Maybe Dave Winer is right: maybe Google really is no good at being evil.
Postscript: I'm trying Feedly as my new RSS reader. It's pretty good. A little too "magazine" like compared to Reader's spare stack of links, but I'll keep it for a while and see.