Google Reader, the widely used RSS reader, is all but dead. Google declared that it would discontinue the service once July 1 rolls around. This has hit a number of the service’s biggest fans hard. The truth, though, is that there are other choices. Google made a decision to close the service because its user base was progressively falling. But the closure of Google Reader provides an valuable lesson to consumers: There’s no guarantee that your favorite, free cloud service won’t go away, as well.
The impermanence of the cloud
The cloud is a great service. It allows us to access programs without needing to store them on our computers. However the cloud also isn’t all that permanent. Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo says that the demise of Google Reader ought to provide a lesson to all computer users on the web: Nothing in the cloud is permanent. When Google introduced Reader in 2005, it marketed the service as one that would be around permanently. Obviously, it won’t be. And that’s a lesson that consumers need to always remember: Nothing in the cloud is certain.
The downside of the cloud
This can be regarded as a downside to the cloud. In the days when software came on discs and we downloaded it to our computers, there was more permanence. Sure, companies would close shop and manufacturers would discontinue software. But you still had access to software, even though the companies behind it terminated it. After all, it was saved on your computer and you still had the discs. This isn’t the situation with the cloud. When something is yanked from the cloud, it is gone.
A bleaker future for Google?
What does this mean, though, for Google? In a recent story, the Economist writes that canceling Google Reader may seem like a small decision. Google does have to make money, and it seems sensible that it wouldn’t devote resources to a service that is no longer growing. Nevertheless, the choice to kill Reader may make users distrustful the next time Google launches a new product and wants everyone to flock to it. Why, consumers might ask, should we? Since of course, there’s no guarantee that Google won’t kill that new product one day, too. This isn’t just an issue that Google faces; it’s one that every company that operates in the cloud might one day have to deal with.