Rob Fishman, writing for Buzzfeed, has a long article on how Google killed Google Reader. The reader itself is still there, but it’s sharing functionality was taken away in October 2011 as part of Google’s disastrous Google Plus plan.
Readers of this site might remember that I used to have a “News of Interest” widget on the sidebar. Judging from the click throughs, this was a fairly popular feature. I have a bunch of news feeds aggregated through Google Reader. Back before Google disabled it, I could click a share button when I saw a news story I found more or less interesting, and the link would show up in the widget. This was an easy way for me to say “you might like this” for stories that didn’t really merit an independent blog post or about which I didn’t have a lot to say. Apparently there were related Google communities surrounding these sharing functions. (I didn’t know much about those).
In any event, it all went away with Google’s ham-fisted effort to move everyone on to a new Facebook. This was, apparently, part of a new philosophy at Google where they were trying to consolidate their products and focus their efforts. The company got huge in a fairly simple way: by having a good search engine and allowing you to use it without having to endure a bunch of screaming bells and whistles while you did. Remember the idea of a web portal? You would go to a site, maybe set it as your browser’s start page, because it had search functionality. But it would also throw out news stories, stock prices, maybe an e-mail service.
For me, these were awful because they usually took forever to load. I tended to use Altavista because it was a little lighter; then I caught wind of Google with a search box and not much else. Sooner or later everyone else in the world caught wind of it too and bailed in favor of Google as well. Meanwhile, Google kept rolling out great products you could use in addition to the search page if you wanted – maps, reader, scholar, earth. None of them seemed to get in the way of the other, so you could take a sort of a la carte approach.
The Google Reader – Google Plus stunt, however, showed a more humorless side of the company and a darker approach to things. Instead of continuing with its organic approach to product development, the company broke a product people liked in order to impose its will that they move to Google Plus.