Monday, March 18, 2013
The end of Reader: what does it say about Google?
Google has not budged. Reader - by far the best RSS feed for people who get their information by reading - is going dark.
Nobody I know however has indicated what this says about Google. So I am going to try.
(a). Reader is a service that not many people use - except that it seems inordinately popular with a bunch of thought-leaders including many of the most widely read bloggers. It amazes me that Google can't take a service that popular with thought leaders and turn it into a mass-market product. This is a management failure - Google is clearly not immune to them.
(b). The mass-market RSS alternative is Twitter. However among the more wordy-and-literate-and-older RSS is still important. My readers are older, better read, and better educated than the average internet user and I have about four times as many RSS followers as I do Twitter followers. Still as a blogger I needed to face the new reality and get a Twitter feed. In abandoning RSS Google is showing the sort of petulance that a mega-company has when it missed a mass-market trend. It seems pretty obvious now that Google is going to want to buy Twitter.
(c). Google is in the process of abandoning its mission. Google's stated mission is to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. RSS is a way that a small number of us organize our information. Google no longer cares. It seems what they care about is mass-markets - see the Twitter comments above.
(d). Twenty percent time is dead at Google. Reader was a great product produced by twenty percent time but it was never shown any love - and no serious attempt has ever been made to monetize it. Even if you manage between 8PM on Saturday and 10AM on Sunday (your twenty percent time) to develop a modestly successful product Larry Page will not care. If you want to be entrepreneurial work elsewhere.
(e). Obvious steps to use the RSS feed to extend or expand other Google products have not been made. The idea of shifting your RSS feed into your Google+ account was seemingly not tried. Rather than abandoning Reader Google could have directed all the thought-leader eyeballs to Google+ - and offered more product. I guess Google has also given up trying to make Plus a serious alternative to Facebook. If it is not a mass-market Google is not interested in it.
(f). Google's slogan is "Don't be evil". But the only agenda now is to go after mass markets and make lots of money. Larry Page's self-image is benevolent dictator but really this guy is demoniacally going after big prizes. Larry Page is as evil as Larry Page perceives necessary.
(g). This obsession is going to lead competitors to openings. Yahoo for instance could immediately get all those thought leaders by offering a clone of Google Reader and offering a seamless transition. Feedly might get there (but Yahoo! will then buy them). Ignoring people around the fringes of your market is dangerous.
Bronte owns Google stock and has done so for some time. The new - and evil - Larry Page is going to make lots and lots of money. Short term the stock will probably continue to go up. Long term I am not so sure. Google is annoying its more entrepreneurial staff by killing any pretense of twenty-percent time. Further, Google is leaving openings for competitors. Finally Google has snubbed people around the fringes of their market and deeply pissed off users are clearly negative for Google. Google relies critically on the trust of their users.
I - along with many others - feel betrayed.
The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. You should assume Mr. Hempton and his affiliates have positions in the securities discussed in this blog, and such beneficial ownership can create a conflict of interest regarding the objectivity of this blog. Statements in the blog are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and other factors. Certain information in this blog concerning economic trends and performance is based on or derived from information provided by third-party sources. Mr. Hempton does not guarantee the accuracy of such information and has not independently verified the accuracy or completeness of such information or the assumptions on which such information is based. Such information may change after it is posted and Mr. Hempton is not obligated to, and may not, update it. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business, an offer of a security or a solicitation to purchase a security, or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author. In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.