Advertising giant Google is continuing its multi-year spring clean, the friendly name under which it shutters projects it believes no longer reflect the needs of its customers, with the announcement that eight more services are to disappear - including the popular RSS feed aggregator Google Reader.
Launched eight years ago, the web-based Google Reader provided an easy way to manage multiple RSS feeds - specially-formatted files created to the Really Simple Syndication standard that offer headlines and content snippets from websites without the need to actually visit the site unless an article catches your eye. Unlike most of the client-based RSS readers out there, Google Reader's use of Google's not-inconsiderable computing power meant that it could scale to hundreds of feeds without slowing down or wasting bandwidth.
Coupled with the use of Google's powerful search technology, some social sharing functions and a clean and light user interface, and Google had a winner on its hands. When it opened up an application programming interface (API) for Google Reader, it spelled the end for most third-party RSS readers out there: Google cornered the market, and even now many supposedly third-party efforts rely on the Google Reader API to do their magic.
Not all has been well in the land of Google Reader, however. The removal of many of the site's social sharing functions, in favour of pointing people towards Google+, led to the creation of clone project The Old Reader
, as fans of the service wondered why Google appeared to be actively attempting to make it worse.
Well, they now have an answer: because it's been looking to shut the site down entirely.
Detailed half-way through a blog post
published late last night is the closure, forever, of the Google Reader service 'While [Google Reader] has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined,
' Google fellow Urs Hölzle claimed of the service. 'So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.
The closure will come as a blow to those who rely on Google Reader for their RSS fixes, the company having pushed many rivals out of business in the last eight years. While some other closures are arguably more far-reaching - the blog post also explains that Apps Script, the CalDAV calendar API, Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect, Google Voice for Blackberry, Search API for Shopping and Snapseed Desktop are all for the chop in the coming months - few have as vocal a following as Google Reader.
Fans of the service have been venting their collective spleen on social networking services since the announcement went live late last night, with numerous petitions going up begging Google to reconsider. Sadly, that's unlikely to work: when Google dropped the social sharing functionality from Google Reader back in 2011, a petition was started that gathered well over 10,000 signatures - but it did not result in the return of the feature.
Google's decision to shutter Reader could mean a bonanza for the few third-party RSS services that still exist, however. Rivals including Feedly
, and even the open-source roll-your-own-server Tiny Tiny RSS
are currently buckling under the strain as users attempt to flee the sinking ship that was once one of Google's most loved products.