Google is ditching Google Reader. This is a new move for Google, because while it has a history of ‘sunseting’ various initiatives, these have generally been suns that have failed to rise very high in the sky – Wave, Buzz, Sidewiki etc. (Sidewiki? I hear you say – exactly). Google Reader, on the other hand, was a pretty well established part of the social media firmament.
This has a couple of implications. One, which is being much discussed, is the impact such a move has in confidence in Google’s products as a whole. If things that work well and are popular get killed-off, how will this affect enthusiasm to get behind behind both existing and new products?
The other is that this sends a clear message as to where Google is headed – which is towards the cloud and data harvesting. The problem, from Google’s perspective, is that Reader was a tool that helped people manage information: it yielded very little information about the people who were using it.
This is all part of what I think is a worrying trend. The tools that help people create and manage their social media world are being sacrificed on the alter of creating cloud based mega-worlds within which people are managed (Chrome is Google’s brand name for its version of this world). This is driven by the need, or expectation, that social media tools or platforms have to deliver a level of revenue per user that way outstrips the cost per user of providing the tool or platform. Ultimately this view of the social media business model is unsustainable (just go back to David Ricardo’s theory of marginal costs and revenues to work this out) – but people are out to make as much money as possible before this reality kicks in.