Breaking Google Reader on the wheel of Google +?

Google has announced it will make a number of changes to Google Reader ‘in the next week’, and by the looks of it, they’re going to break a great existing product and tool which is used by a lot of professionals to be able to shoehorn some extra interaction into Google+.

Normally, I’d advise waiting and seeing what the changes are to a product before complaining, but the post on the official Google blog gives enough information to be really, really worrying.

‘in a week’s time we’ll be retiring things like friending, following and shared link blogs inside of Reader.’

That scares me for a number of reasons.

  • A week? Seriously? That makes Yahoo look kind in the way they’ve ended or sold services. Presumably if they do it quick there won’t be enough time for people to organise a concerted campaign of complaints or realise exactly what the changes mean.
  • No following? There’s a reason why I use both Reader and Google+ throughout the day, but spending almost all day, every day in Reader – I use it professionally, and have a very small number of people I follow. Those are people who consistently find things which are important to know about, and I enjoy being able to find out when they’ve just read them – not see a jumble of items which might be new, old, or social items like holiday images etc which are being put on Google+ weeks or months after they’ve happened.
  • Most importantly – No Shared Link Blogs!!!! (Mine is here and has been sharing items for several years now). As a part of curating and sharing information, I’ve used the RSS feed from that page to power various other services, and now it won’t exist? I’ve shared 16991 articles since starting to use Google Reader, and all of the value that has created is going.

I know that people have been requesting a better SendTo integration for Google+, although there is a workaround already in place which does the job, but I can’t believe that people have ‘highly requested ‘ the end of following or shared link blogs? Anyone that doesn’t want to follow or publicly share has the option to never do it already, so turning those features off makes no sense.

Unless you’re trying to artificially inflate the amount being shared on Google+.

Our only hope…

Now aside from reinforcing the fact that if you use a free service, you should expect that they won’t care about you – ‘If you’re not paying for the product, you’re not the customer, you’re the product’, it does beg the question what will happen to those services for people who might be paying for Google Apps? I don’t know how Apps revenue stacks up against the hopes for Google+, but I suspect it won’t make a big enough difference, sadly.

Which leaves Louis Gray as the only hope that this won’t be an enormously painful and damaging moveboth for Google and for everyone that used Google Reader as a business tool. Not only is he smart, but he’s specialised in working with, and making his name blogging about, information services, so if there’s one person at Google who may understand the difference between professional use and social use, you would hope as a Google+ Product Marketing Manager he might have had a chance to speak with the Google Reader team?

The final pain is the comment from Alen Green suggesting that if we decide Google Reader is no longer for us, we can move to another service. Which is technically true, but given that Google Reader has roughly 70% or more of the RSS Reader market, there’s not exactly a huge number of viable alternatives – two of the other services I’ve used in the past both closed after Google effectively crushed them by weight of numbers. It’s not quite like social bookmarking, where I’ve used Diigo and Delicious in tandem for a long time now to ensure that I always have a backup – it means exporting all my data, finding a service which is directly comparable in terms of features, and hoping that everything can be uploaded and work without disrupting my business too much.

Google hording data inside Google+?

Whilst Google does have a data export project, there’s a difference between exporting data and being able to syndicate it. And until I see a handy RSS link for items I +1, ideally with some kind of category filter which means I can take a feed of the information I’m sharing, rather than everything I’ve ever liked, including static content, photos etc, then it appears that Google is intent on following the walled garden approach of Facebook in bringing in as much as possible behind a walled garden. Which isn’t a selling point when Facebook already exists.

I don’t know what will happen in the next week, or how much my business and workflow will be disrupted, but if you know any good, comparable and compatible RSS Readers – paid or free, then let me know. And if there’s an open source option, all the better. Meanwhile when I categorise this post under ‘Tools’ you can assume both meanings of the word are inferred.