Google will end its Google Reader RSS service July 1, citing declining usage.
Fans of the news and information aggregation service, however, were quick to criticize Google’s decision, with at least one online petition collecting almost 50,000 signatures within 24 hours of its creation on Change.org. Several other petitions also were created and are gaining signatures by the hour.
Google unveiled the move to end Reader in a March 13 post about an assortment of service cuts that the company is making in the next few months as part of a house cleaning project it began in 2011, according to Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure and a Google Fellow.
“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite Websites,” Hölzle wrote. “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. 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.”
Interestingly, the news of the demise of Reader was buried in the sixth paragraph of the 10-paragraph blog post, among several lesser services that also will be ending soon, including Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect and Google Voice App for BlackBerry.
“These changes are never easy,” wrote Hölzle. “But by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on building great products that really help in [users’] lives.”
In a separate post on the Google Reader Blog, Alan Green, a Google software engineer, wrote March 13: “We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.”
The move is being made for two key reasons, Green wrote, including that the use of Google Reader has declined over time and that “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.”
The July 1 shutdown date will give users three months to find alternatives, wrote Green.
Users will be able to retain and transfer their Reader data, including subscriptions, to other services using Google Takeout, he wrote.
Reached March 14 via email, a Google spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the company’s plans.
“We’ve given an overview of our reasoning and plans in our posts yesterday on the Google Official Blog and the Google Reader Blog,” she wrote. “There are a number of non-Google alternatives for RSS users, and you can export your Reader data, including your subscriptions, in three steps.”
Google Is Dropping Google Reader July 1
Upon hearing the news, one ardent Google Reader user, Dan Lewis of New York City, who describes himself on his Website as a lawyer and director of new media for a nonprofit organization, started a petition March 13 on Change.org’s Website opposing the move. By 11 a.m. ET March 14, more than 50,000 people had signed the document. By 1 p.m., more than 60,000 signatures were tallied. Contacted by email, Lewis declined to discuss the matter.
In his petition, Google: Keep Google Reader Running, Lewis wrote that the service is a core part of his Internet use.
“Our confidence in Google’s other products—Gmail, YouTube, and yes, even Plus—requires that we trust you in respecting how and why we use your other products,” Lewis wrote in the petition. “This isn’t just about our data in Reader. This is about us using your product because we love it, because it makes our lives better, and because we trust you not to nuke it.”
Charlotte Hill, communications manager for Change.org, said in a statement that Lewis’ petition was the most popular Google Reader petition on Change.org’s Website March 14, making up 24 percent of the site’s total traffic. “At any given moment, approximately 1,500 people were viewing the petition simultaneously,” she wrote.
Several other petitions asking Google to maintain Google Reader were also created on Change.org, including “Google Inc: Please do not shut down Google Reader,” “Google: Please Don’t Kill Reader!” and “Google: Do not remove Google Reader on July 1, 2013.”
The planned obsolescence of Google Reader even quickly spawned a comical protest Website, which includes an animated image of a woman with disdain on her face, along with a caption: “Dear Google, You should bring back Google Reader.”
There has been lots of discussion on the topic on Twitter, as well.
Tim O’Reilly, of O’Reilly Media, suggested that Google pass Reader over to the open-source community where it can be continued and maintained. “My thoughts on petition to keep Google Reader alive. They should ‘recycle’ the service to someone who wants it,” he wrote.
Other replacements are out there for getting the news and blog feeds that are provided by Google Reader, but they may not satisfy users who love the simple and easy-to-use format of Reader.
Now, the question is, will Google respond to the petitioners and change its planned action to end Google Reader? Only Google knows what will happen next.