December 8, 2012

Google Reader, "Constantly on the Chopping Block"

Buzzfeed has an interesting article about the evolution of Google Reader. While the article mostly focuses on the social features that were removed from Google Reader a few months after Google+ was launched, there are some thought-provoking insights from former Google Reader engineers that reveal why the service has never been a priority for Google and why it can always be discontinued.

"In the beginning, the best word I can use is that Google tolerated the project. Then, they gave it — support is too strong a word. They gave it some thought," said Chris Wetherell, the Googler who started the project. Jenna Bilotta, a former user experience designer at Google, has a slightly different opinion: "Everyone from Google used Reader, from Larry and Sergey to the newest engineers. It's such a beloved project. Still, it was just in this limbo space. It wasn't really supported, but it wasn't actively being harmed."

The difficulty was that Reader users, while hyperengaged with the product, never snowballed into the tens or hundreds of millions. Brian Shih became the product manager for Reader in the fall of 2008. "If Reader were its own startup, it's the kind of company that Google would have bought. Because we were at Google, when you stack it up against some of these products, it's tiny and isn't worth the investment," he said. At one point, Shih remembers, engineers were pulled off Reader to work on OpenSocial, a "half-baked" development platform that never amounted to much. "There was always a political fight internally on keeping people staffed on this little project," he recalled. Someone hung a sign in the Reader offices that said "DAYS SINCE LAST THREAT OF CANCELLATION." The number was almost always zero. At the same time, user growth — while small next to Gmail's hundreds of millions — more than doubled under Shih's tenure. But the "senior types," as Bilotta remembers, "would look at absolute user numbers. They wouldn't look at market saturation. So Reader was constantly on the chopping block."

iGoogle, a much more popular service, will be discontinued next year and Google Reader's infrastructure is used to show feeds in iGoogle. Hopefully, Google Reader will still be available for some time, but it's mostly wishful thinking.

108 comments:

  1. I don't understand why Google Reader isn't just merged with News and Currents.

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    1. Nor do I. The three of the products really seem like they'd be natural fits with one another.

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    2. Google is making a common mistake for a big company, they are shutting down small businesses within their company instead of selling them. Just bc it's not as big as USA Today doesn't mean it's not a business for someone who might like to own it. Shutting down iGoogle is just IGNORANT and ASSANINE. Some guy named Fred Hickey makes a nice living selling cheap newsletters. Now Google shouldn't be interested in owning his newsletter bc it's to small. But it shouldn't be shut down simply bc Larry Page can't make a billion running it. As I said, big companies make classic big company mistakes. Sell the biz internally to an interested employee for a dollar and give him 2 years of infrastructure cost in time to get him to break even.

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    3. Currents, really? Is that still around?
      That aside, News is a different product than Reader. I don't use Reader primarily for news, but to keep track of blogs that would never ever make it to the front page of Google News.

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  2. NOOOO!!! Google Reader is my favorite internet product.

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  3. I echo the "NOOOOOO!!!!"! I rely on Google Reader every day!

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    1. +1
      Was the most useful app before Google Docs/Drive and I still use it regularly.

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    2. Me too! I love Google Reader. Besides Gmail, it's the most used site for me on the web!

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  4. Van a perder muchos puntos si me quitan reader

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    1. "They will lose many points shortly after reader removal"

      I was always wondering, why do you guys writing on spanish, french, ... some other language when original post and the whole thread is in english.

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    2. It's freedom of speech. Have you ever heard of it?

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  5. Don't take it away from us. It's Google's best (okay... maybe second or third best) creation. Google+ has a long way to go before it could be deemed a reasonable replacement for Google Reader.

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  6. This is by far and above the best RSS reader out there. It is pure Google minimalism and high quality. I've tried many other news readers and none come close to the ease of use, simplicity of the UI....

    Honestly its hard to see Google monetizing this, so I guess I couldn't blame them if they were to drop it like they did Google Desktop Search. But still, I hope they don't.

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  7. If they got rid of Google Reader, and didn't replace it with other RSS subscription capabilities, it would actually reduce my usage of Google+. The vast majority of what I post to G+ originates from stories I read in Google Reader.

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    1. Yup. The two are intertwined, related not redundant. I'm totally dependent on both.

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  8. I honestly just have too many sites that I like to keep track of.
    Without a good RSS reader I would be lost, and the fact that my reader is linked to my Google account and subscriptions cross-refresh across all of my devices is just too perfect.

    The difficulty with RSS from a monetisation perspective is that it actually strips out advertising from sites and leaves me with the bare updated information. I can see the issues from that perspective.

    but damn it.. it's all about ME!
    I think the service is fantastic...
    maybe I should start looking at alternative RSS services.

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  9. The day Google axes Reader is the day I turn in my Google fan card. I mean it, Reader is awesome and I'm very happy with its current incarnation -- it's nicely integrated into Google+ and uses the current Google design.

    Just leave it alone, Google. Let it do its thing.

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    1. Not nicely integrated at all! You can't +1 an item without the bulky share box popping up, and there's no keyboard shortcut key for +1'ing. There used to be an "L" shortcut for liking, and btw, afaik likes weren't converted to +1s. So no, not nicely integrated AT ALL in my opinion. Which is especially bad considering it's their own product!

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    2. I think what he meant by integrated was how if you read an article it syncs thru your whole Google account along with any other action you take in g-reader.

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  10. I am reading this with Google Reader right now. I have several Chrome extensions that makes it the best news experience I've ever had.

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  11. I am reading this with Google Reader right now. I have several Chrome extensions that makes it the best news experience I've ever had.

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  12. What if they just integrated reader and plus even more. Google seems occupied with Combining services and off the top of my head I can think of several services that can easily be unified.

    Google Reader + Google Plus

    Google Talk + Hangouts + Google Voice + Google Messenger

    Google Chrome + Google Bookmarks

    Google TV and Movies + Youtube

    Google Music + Google Listen

    Chromium + Android

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    1. As of the last, Chromium + Android = ChromeOS

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  13. I've been using Reader as my RSS feed program for years. What is my solution when it is finally put out to pasture? (I got to this page because I have this blog on Reader)

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  14. I have been dreading this day. I feel that it will soon be upon us. My favorite Google product will be shuttered within the next year.

    I have been mentally preparing myself. I've decided to just export all of my Reader RSS feeds into Mozilla Thunderbird.

    Google+ isn't a good replacement for Reader since most media and news companies neglect it. They all prefer Facebook. Google Currents is seemingly abandoned. No new content producers of note have added their product to the serve. The app itself is rather buggy. You can't see embeded media such as slideshows and non-youtube videos.

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  15. Google, don't do it, as Google Reader is one of your best products and I have been using it for a few years now - I would never imagine to use a different RSS feeds aggregator. Please, leave Reader alone.

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  16. I have been using Google Reader for several years and if it gets axed then the Mayans were right!
    It will be the end for me. Google PLEASE DON'T DO IT!

    anyways I would love a way to manage my starred items more efficiently as I probably have thousands of articles and would like to go through then and only keep the most important ones but
    It can get tedious. Anyone have a suggestion?

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  17. No, please. Google Reader is the main reason why I love Google so much.

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  18. I hate when Google takes away products that I use literally everyday! Google Notebook, now this! What the heck?!

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  19. I got to this page because I have this blog on Reader. I can easily access reader from all my devices. Are there any other web based feed readers that are anywhere near as good as Google reader?

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  20. It's not been the same since they killed social - G+, for whatever reason, doesn't generate as interesting of comment threads. I also miss using my friends as news curators. It's not out yet, but all you google reader fans should be watching http://hivemined.org/ .

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  21. Google caused a massive commotion when they changed the UI a couple years ago. Just a UI change. It was in all the blogs.

    Then again last year (or was it 2011?) they removed the integrated sharing and told people to use google+. Again, the internet exploded.

    The moral to the story is that people love this product and while it may not have a lot of users compared to gmail (ie, the entire population of the Earth) it did capture nearly 100% of the market, and it's worth keeping around.

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  22. I love and live in Google Reader. It is so clean and useful. If they are going to kill it, please tell me what the best alternative is, especially if I can export my hundreds of feeds to. Please!

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  23. Another dedicated Reader user here. I use it almost constantly throughout the day (maybe too much). I am also quite happy with the product as it is so I would be happy if they just left it alone.

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  24. Google Reader is absolutely vital product for me. I'm spending most of the time online using it. I read a lot and there's no other way I could track updates across all sources I'm interested in - other than by using an RSS aggregator. And there's no other reader even close to GR in terms of usability/convinience/speed (and I tried many of them).

    I can see the reason behind RSS being not that popular in a global sense. I presume the whole concept of RSS (looking for feeds, managing subscriptions etc.) is just too complex for a casual user. At the same time a similar functionality is provided by social networks (news feeds). But I believe there is a number of people - like me - who need to get news just this way:
    - I want to be sure I will see every update and wont miss anything important just because some fancy relevance algorithm decision
    - I need to track read and unread items and be able to mark items read/unread/starred
    - I am more of a reader and rarely want to share anything really
    - I don't care that much about boring everyday updates of my not-so-close friends in social networks compared to some really interesting articles I get in my feeds. At least, I want these things to be separated

    And compared to other RSS readers GR is just exactly what I want. I love the way navigation is organized, love clean, simple and content-oriented design. I absolutely love keyboard shortcuts and ability to go through all my feeds without touching a mouse/touchpad. The labels system works exactly how it should.

    It would be a disaster if Google discontinues GR. I would agree to have it as a payed service or to see as much ads as needed - just to be able to use as I did last few years.

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    1. Wow.. Are you me? That's exactly my thought.

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    2. +1 100% agreed. I would be lost without Google Reader.

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    3. =(

      I don't understand why they won't simply just leave it as is... sure, pull peeps off it if it's costing you too much money... it doesn't really need to be upgraded, it's fine how it is.

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  25. I love Reader and would hate to see it go. But at the same time it's obvious that Google have not been paying enough attention to it. :(
    While searching for suitable alternatives, NewsBlur looks like it could be viable..But the search continues...

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  26. As many others have shared, I too love Google Reader and would hate to see it go. What more can I say?

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  27. NO! Reader must live! It is my best daily paper (RSS Reader) for years!

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  28. I am a heavy web user and still more than half of my time is spent in Reader.
    I still dearly miss the "Note in Reader" removed in latest major release, when Google+ had a big push.
    Please try to spin Reader off, or release the source code, if the day came to cut support.

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  29. I use Google Reader more than anything else. Maybe Bloglines will make a comeback if Google Reader goes up in smoke.

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  30. I rarely comment on posts but I feel I need to say something about Reader. I use this product every morning, everyday. I love Google but I would be pissed if Google killed Reader.

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  31. Please please don't take google reader away I really need it for daily tech news its the best android app I have on my phone....please don't do this

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  32. Google Reader is the product which I use the most. I am an avid reader and Google Reader helps me keep updated with all the articles. Even if I miss some day I catch up on some articles over the weekend. I have it on my Android Tablet and my Android Phone. I can't live without it. Please Google don't kill this product.

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  33. I share far less now with G+ than I did when Google Reader had it's amazing sharing with friends feature. I find far too often I share a Reader story on G+ and none of my friends notice it.

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  34. After Search and Gmail, Reader is the 3rd Google product I use most. I can't think of my daily internet life without it. I hope Google keeps it alive no matter what.

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  35. For me the internet is about ideas and great writers that I follow. They are better "friends" than some local yokels on facebook. Reader with the great "Super Full Feeds" extension is an efficient way to absorb info. Google dumping Reader would be par for the course to the crappy company they are becoming. They, like Microsoft before them, now only resort to creating derivative products using their heft to steal market share. The sickingly commercial "play" store, the confusing and unusable google+ which is probably the only thing that ever made facebook seem good. Their browser, which offered a couple of decent original ideas early on is now is now being totally outdone by Firefox. Just the other day I marked an email from Google as spam in gmail. Google do something original!

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  36. Without Google Reader, reading the internet will be like going back to prodigy.net.

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  37. And look what happened to them.

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  38. Just like many of the other commenters here, I got to this article from Google Reader. I use it every day whether I am at work, at home, or anywhere else. Honestly it is the one of the only products really keeping me using google. I love duckduckgo as a search engine, iOS isn't terrible and I would probably give windows phone 7/8 a go, Opera and Firefox are easy replacements for chrome, and there are at least 12 free hotmail services out there comparable to gmail. In reality there are only two things keeping me loyal to Google, my love of Android and my love of Reader. My phones contract is over in the summer and I am considering getting a Windows phone, so what is keeping me with Google? Reader.

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  39. Google Reader is a unique service that stands for its own, and must not be merged with other services, nor discontinued.
    I hope you all know that with GR you not just collect RSS feeds from websites and blog you consume information from, but rather get RSS feeds of words, and phrases by combing Bing search engine and Google Reader - to get RSS of a Subject.
    You are invited to read my piece on that here: http://bit.ly/fAIZGw.
    I hope yoy will understand that it cannot be done with other tool or service.
    More tips in favor of GR, here: http://bit.ly/KT3Vn2.
    Google, please don't "Mark all as read...!"

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  40. It seems to me that 90% of Google's products wander into this kind of limbo. If you look at the really big bugs that just linger for years with dozens of forum threads, plus the less than polite comments of Google engineers on bug reports, you see all the usual signs of an organisation of a company that has substituted brownian motion for forward progress.

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  41. Google Reader is my main access to all the sites I like to visit daily - I would be lost without it!

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  42. Stop whining and US Tiny Tiny RSS (http://tt-rss.org).

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    Replies
    1. Hardly a suitable replacement: one has to install it on an server of their own; there's no online setup we can just use.

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  43. I would be deeply upset if Google reader was discontinued. I love the fact i can read from any of my many devices or PCs and everything is kept in sync. I don't know of any other product that does this. please give this product support

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  44. I, as nik, recommend »tiny tiny rss« (http://tt-rss.org/). It can do everything greader can and could (have a look at http://gritttt-rss.nicolashoening.de/) is self hosted and works perfectly.

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    1. Being self-hosted is a bit of a problem, actually: most people don't keep servers of their own to install this. Say what you want about cloud apps, but they typically have better backup policies than I do on my local machines. I'd rather have the backend of the products I use be managed elsewhere.

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  45. When you register a new account, Reader is populated with recommended tech-y feeds like xkcd. They don't even bother trying to attract non-nerds anymore.

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  46. Noooo, there's no alternative for Reader now. Simple and most readible than sites with many unnecessary images. Please, stop thinking about close this project! Ask us - can we pay for this, but don't close, ok?

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  47. Reader is my absolute favorite Google Product of all time. If they integrated it into Google+ and got rid of the standalone reader, that would be the only tolerable action.

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  48. Reader is a really productiv way to read my Blogs. Dont stop the work

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  49. I am a massive Google fanboy but if they get rid of Google Reader, well, I'll still be a fanboy but I'll be mighty annoyed :)
    I use Google Reader constantly for news and blogs, plus I use the starred feature to populate my image inspiration blog on Tumblr http://renduh.tumblr.com/
    Don't do it Google!

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  50. An official google reader app for ios would be welcomed :) I'm using reeder at the moment and I don't think much of currents or feedly

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    1. I'm using NewsIfy on iOS, it has lots of features, it's fast and also free!

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  51. I'd be pretty devastated if Google Reader was discontinued. I've used it for years now and outside of Gmail and Voice, it's my most used service, easily. Does it cost that much money to stay up and running? Perhaps they could add inline ads into the interface somehow to justify keeping it. I've tried other RSS readers and none of them are simple and user-friendly as Google Reader, plus, by extension, I support Gmail and Google + every time I share a story to those services via Reader. PLEASE, if anybody is listening, don't get rid of this product! I love it!

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  52. I am deep into Google, I have 200GB of pictures on their servers I buy ads and all, I use G+ even though I really don't see any benefit but if Google Reader goes I'll have to reconsider my relationship with Google it is the first thing I check in the morning and the last one I check in the evening, it cannot be discontinued.

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  53. ಠ_ಠ Started using google reader like 4 days ago.

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  54. Well i am using Feedly as my primary RSS reader (News reader). It have all the ingredients for a modarn day RSS reader. Best part i like about it is that it will sync with Google Reader. So in my case it is still powered by Google Reader. And i ♥ Google Reader.
    So Dont stop the work.

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  55. I expected more from you, Alex Chitu. That article is classic Google-bashing - right down to the story about the guy who lost his girlfriend because Google changed Reader. Completely laughable.

    Rumor has it that a group of mountain men in Canada is upset by Apple pulling the plug on MobileME. This could get ugly.

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  56. I'm using Google Reader on a daily basis. It's my most visited service after Facebook.

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  57. Pedro Félix - Lisbon, Portugal
    Google Reader is my favorite daily web review based on rss feeds from my
    preferred sources.

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  58. DON'T DO that!! I LOVE Google Reader!!

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  59. I love Google Reader too and use it daily.
    I cant understand why Google spoiling its own services and than disabling them.
    I remember when Google made nobody knows what with Google Notebook by merging it with Bookmarks and than killed it. But I know many users which used this web application, and I used it too. Google Documents is not Notebook alternative like Word is not alternative of Notepad, these are applications of different types developed for different tasks.
    Thus first Google spoiled Google Reader with G+ remix and than can disable it like iGoogle.

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  60. after a long time of seeking a good way to read my content on the web, I finally found this great service and now Google is going to close it. No way!!!!!!!

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  61. Google should consider that the users of Google Reader are as power users likely the ones that advocate Google products to many others. Kill the reader and you will lose at least a few advocates to other competitor products. I for one would be pretty sad if they cancel it. It is my single most used app besides GMail and I would miss it dearly. It would be simply the wrong signal.

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  62. Aside from search, Google reader is the single most useful Google service to me. It's always the first tab in my Chrome session.

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  63. It always baffles me when I learn that a good RSS reader, or podcast catcher, isn't popular. Am I living in the stone ages because RSS and podcast are how I consume 90% of the information I get? And I just assume everyone else does the same.

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  64. I would be a big mistake to kill the Google Reader.

    It is one of the tools that can actually keep user on Google's website 10-15 minutes a day!

    Just imagine fackebook fill in the void and start an easy to use Google Reader replacement.....

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  65. Reader is my homepage & the way I consume most of my internet content. But given the dumb things I've seen lately I wouldn't be surprised to see them chop it.

    The thing is that "social" can't replace reader. You have to start somewhere & reader makes your collection of feeds into your internet neighbourhood. Without that I'd miss a load of stuff. Visiting sites by hand is just too time consuming and relying on social only gets what others have flagged. My simplistic view is that social is the intersection of people's internet neighbourhoods, so it relies on things like rss, if only indirectly.

    Reader does the job very well and keeps you in the Google ecosystem.

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  66. Frankly, I am willing to pay to keep using it. Not anything astronomical, of course, maybe $25 a year...

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  67. Google's all communications will be lost. I read all google blogs from their own Reader.

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  68. Reading this from google reader...

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  69. Unbelievable. Google is becoming evil, isnt it?

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  70. No way!! I read you and many other of my favorite blogs through Google Reader. They can't get rid of that!

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  71. Can't quite grasp why google refuse to put effort into a much loved product and instead work so hard on so many flops.
    I understand that google reader might not be as profitable as other ventures, but if it works and people appreciate it there will always be ways to generate revenue.

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  72. Reader is the most important google service for me. It is also the only tab I rarely close if my laptop is running. I've tried google plus for same purpose but the experience was not as good as reader.

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  73. I use Reader more then anyother Google product, even Gmail and Search.

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  74. While I normally don't comment much on anything but I would like to give my two cents.
    Google Reader is a good web app and I would miss it if it left but I know it would suddenly drop because of Google. So I local cache of RSS feeds in Outlook which works fine.
    I just won't have the convenience of what I read and not read online.

    Oh well. I am just glad I am not heavily invested in Google. Another thing I cannot accept is the dropping of EAS which I use Outlook and Exchange heavily.

    I suggest people to grab the RSS feeds and save them in document for you to enter into a new web or Desktop RSS app in case of Reader being chopped.

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  75. One more vote for Google Reader. My experience with product shutdowns/off is that there is decent window of time for pulling out content. In general, Google is great about making "my data" easily transportable. For example, see Google Data Liberation Front at http://www.dataliberation.org/

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  76. I love Google Reader, but the 'sort by magic' feature that made it stand out from the crowd has been broken for ages. I've never been able to find a decent replacement for that.

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    1. Nevertheless there are many, many apps and websites for that: Flipboard, Wavii, Prismatic, just to name a few.

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  77. I depend on Reader as my daily newspaper. I found it by accident and now don't know what I will do without it. I guess I'll need to start looking for a replacement; and I'll also be using Google much less.

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  78. Cmon, don't kill Google Reader....

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  79. Please don't kill Google Reader!

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