Having survived being sacked by Google, I still don’t think most users have learned the requisite lessons. Try thinking of Reader as a remarkable gift from Google to consumers, as one economist did a few years ago; he wildly guesstimated it was worth $1 billion to users, with their only investment being the time spent curating their feeds over the years. For Reader users to carp about Google betraying them is like the alcoholic filing a complaint against a bar when it shuts off the free beer. A service run in the cloud, such as Google Reader, requires engineering resources, so who can begrudge Google’s decision to place them elsewhere?
This is the obvious riposte to anyone griping about the end of a free service. Rationally speaking, Google doesn’t owe anyone anything. It was we who gravitated to a free service, killing the likes of Newsgator in the process. We sowed this destruction, and who are we to blame Google for harvesting?
Yet the Reader decision grates, even for folks like myself who long ago gave up RSS.1
The reason, I think, is that many of us have given Google something much more valuable than our money. We gave them our trust. We believed that they desired to do no evil, that open was an end, not a means. We believed that ads were simply there to fund the awesome, and were useful to boot. We believed it all.
Turns out one’s blind devotion is a rather expensive price to pay. An investment down the drain. I’m glad I gave up on it long ago.2
- I find a highly curated Twitter list (the vast majority being humans, not headline bots) far superior [↩]
- 2. And now it’s obvious why I’ve long been so bothered by Google’s hypocrisy. I’ve far more respect for companies who are evil and honest about it than those who profess piety and practice simple good business sense, aka “evil”. In other words, I’m usually impressed by Google’s acumen, and driven absolutely batty by the way they talk about it. [↩]