Are you lamenting the reported death of Google Reader? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Google recently reported that it is killing off its RSS reader on July 1. The reason behind Google’s decision seems sensible: Reader was losing users. It was not a growing service. Nonetheless, the death of Reader presents some interesting questions, for both consumers and Google. The main one? What’s to keep Google and others from stopping other cloud-based services? The answer? Nothing.
The realm of the cloud is an ever-changing one. Companies add new products. They also pull the ones that aren’t performing well. That’s what happened with Google Reader. It’s an issue that Farhad Manjoo, a writer with Slate, says that consumers should expect to see more frequently. Nothing that lives in the cloud is guaranteed eternal life, Manjoo writes. Google promoted Reader as though it was going to be an enduring part of the company. But that obviously isn’t the case. So be warned, Manjoo writes, there’s no guarantee that your other favorite cloud software will live forever, either.
Look at your favorite cloud-based programs today. Consider just how much you rely on them. And then let yourself become a little nervous: There is nothing preventing the companies behind these programs from doing away with them should they stop growing or generating money. This is completely different from the days when we stored the majority of our software on our computers. If your favorite word-processing service was discontinued, you still had use of it. That’s not the case with cloud services. Gone means gone when it comes to the cloud.
The death of Reader isn’t just bad news for fans of the RSS service. It’s also a challenge for Google, as the Economist magazine argues in a recent story. Nobody can expect Google to continue funding under-performing products. Nonetheless, how will consumers react the next time Google unveils a cloud-based product? Are they going to flock to it? Or are they going to be reluctant, wondering when Google might kill it off? The demise of Reader might seem like a small matter to a company as powerful as Google. Nonetheless the RSS service’s end might post some tricky challenges for Google later on.