The mothballing of Google Reader is another sign that the strategy for Google+ is to become an end-to-end content platform. The is a real danger that open technologies could become Google APIs.
So long Google Reader
The old news is that Google are canning Google Reader.
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
I take 'pouring all our energy into few products' as being Google+. So now I dislike Google+ even more.
Open protocols v Google APIs
HTTP is an amazing thing. Documents are scattered around the globe but can be accessed from anywhere using a compatible client. A simple idea with massive implications for freedom and humanity. The relationship between a content producer and a content consumer is simple and elegant. It is direct. This has disrupted many governments and industries that have historically relied on brokers to handle information. What irks me about Google+ is that by pushing content into a proprietary content platform the Internet suddenly becomes less open and less interoperable.
Maybe I'm a 30 something developer reacting to the way the web is changing in terms of consumers being spoon-fed content. But something in my gut says that this is wrong for the most important thing that I value about the web: freedom. I value that the architecture of the web is created on open, standardised technologies. I value that HTML is easy to understand and works in many different clients. I value that services can build on top of these technologies. Google Reader did just this with RSS and HTTP, and left the data available for people to consume in other ways.
Let's say I move my content production and consumption to Google+. I can no longer use an open standard like RSS to interoperate with other services and clients. I now have to use Google's client, rely on Google's APIs and their interpretation of how data can be used. Syndication would be performed by a proprietary platform with commercial interests rather than an open, interoperable standard. Everyone but Google loses when this happens.
Google+ needs to be more open
On his Google+ page Youatan Zunger reaches out to the frustrated Google Reader users.
I have a question for avid Google Reader users: what are the aspects of the way Reader works that made it so useful for you? I've heard a number of things floated in the past day -- e.g., the particular sources available, the way of managing read/unread state, various aspects of the UI -- but I'd like to understand better what the concrete things about Reader were which people found the most useful, because I'd like to integrate those ideas into future versions of many Google products, and try to capture that value.
-- Youatan Zunger
Here is my response.
- I value that RSS is an open standard.
- I value that as a content producer I can easily syndicate content to anyone with a compatible client (and there are lots).
- I value that as a consumer I can choose my RSS client.
- I value that as a content producer my relationship with readers is direct.
- I value that as a content consumer my relationship with producers is direct.
- I value that because of RSS my content is open to others and is distributed in places I had never imagined.
- I value that RSS uses open technologies and the Internet as the delivery mechanism for consumer and producers.
If Google+ embraced RSS or another open standard that supported syndicating content outside of the platform it would be a less flawed platform.
I don't want an extra layer between me and content producers and consumers. I don't need a content platform. Because the content platform is the Internet. It just so happens that Google is very good at indexing it.