01549: Google Reader is More Important Than the Pope

I honestly thought that today's blog post was going to be about the new Pope. But as I read more about him and how it turns out the conclave of cardinals have managed to find themselves not only a Italian in Argentina but a conservative Jesuit, it was clear that this was more of the same old routine for the Catholic Church. Besides, a few hours later more important news broke out.

On the official Google blog, they announced that they are shutting down a variety of services including Google Reader. The official reasons stated were due to declining usage and the desire to focus on fewer products, but others feel there are more significant reasons on the backend. For those who are unaware, Google Reader is a web-based RSS feed reader that allows you to collate updated content from a variety of blogs, websites and other online services that provide RSS accessibility. In other words, you no longer have to visit websites A, B, C everyday to check for new content - you can just check your Google Reader account and get the new content.

While Google Reader had been launched back in 2005, I first started using Google Reader on April 14, 2006 - and I know this since I actually wrote a blog post (on my old LiveJournal blog) about how happy I was about how clean and efficient it was, especially versus another RSS service called Pluck. Plus you all know how much I love all things Google and thus to find a Google solution in the now-defunct Google Labs seemed like the most perfect solution in the world to me.

I switched everything over to Google Reader from the blogs of my friends, various webcomics and breaking news stories. Google Reader helped introduce me to the larger pro-blogging outfits like Gawker Media and helped keep things manageable for me given the volume of posts that they come up with day after day. If there was an RSS feed, I seriously considered whether or not I wanted to add to my account and become part of my daily routine.

I was also very involved in Google Reader's sharing tools when they were launched. I would comment on posts, share posts with other Google Reader users and basically interact with the community. And take note, this was before disasters like Google Buzz - Reader already had a pretty involved community for sharing and generating discussion and it was just such a great place to be.

I introduced Tobie to Google Reader when we got together and got him started on using the service for his online update aggregation. We would share posts with one another and comment on feeds that we both followed. It became yet another way for us to interact and our eventually becoming a couple also stemmed from those interactions. Yes, I am saying Google Reader played a role in our relationship.

And now it's going and the internet is scrambling to propose alternatives. But I think this Mashable Op-Ed put it best (and yes, Google Reader deserved an Op-Ed) in stating why Google Reader is so important and why it's such a bad idea for Google to shut the service down. I don't need something overly visual - I want a clean and efficient RSS service that is web-based, does not require a browser extension and allows me to access my collection of feeds from various computers and devices. I'm not too big on mobile so full web interfaces remain more important to me.

I still respect Google as a company and I survived the shut down of Google Notebook and Google Wave. But Google Reader is definitely a lot closer to my heart and it represented how Google was willing to continually innovate and experiment with new products and ideas. But as Google continues to refine its product line and give up on more products, it feels more and more like a lot of what made me say that I love Google may not be true for long.

And it had to happen on Pi Day to boot.