Did Google shut down Reader to better compete with sexier apps?


Google kills many of it’s services, this is not something new. But most of the services that Google has killed are those that were either not showing signs of ever picking up, or were still below expectations of Google as a tech giant. Rarely did Google kill products that have lasted for long, most of the victims are few month old babies that failed to hit the sweet spot.

Google Reader which finally met it’s end this week came as a surprise to many, with quite many years of service to the masses. There were even questions like “With Google’s mighty resources, did Google reader really consume that much resources to not just live on unnoticed by Google?” That was Ingrid Lunden of Techcrunch.

I have my own theories. And they have everything to do with mobile apps.

Remember it’s not long ago that Google Currents became mainstream? Google currents brings you news from various sources that even the user can curate, pretty much what Google reader does, but in a different format. Let me take you back to some few months ago when Flipboard was only available on Apple devices. It was quite the thing and when it was finally made available exclusively to the Galaxy S 3 last year by Samsung, Android users could not wait for the app to be stripped by some cunning developer for them to install. I remember even installing it on a Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos, it looked that fancy.

Did we talk highly of Google Reader? No!

And there lies our answer as to why Google killed Google Reader.

It was not sexy……….

Apps like Pulse, Flipboard and others that became sexy and the desire of many while being free are what Google want’s to be able to effectively compete with. Remember Google is a content company that wants to serve you ads even on your dining table at breakfast. The RSS reader is not the best way to serve them. Google wants to be where you spend your time, and it was not easy to sit and watch the Flipboards of this world hog all of your time. It’s not a crime, every advertiser platform owner wants that too. Billboards are competing to be as visible and as sexy as possible, even to a point of being painted on the roads. Same applies to Google.

I won’t be surprised if Google does an acquisition in that line of business, but we have Google Currents which is not doing bad itself. Although Google is not known to sit pretty at number two, the tech giant seats uneasy till they can authoritatively show that they are the big guy in the room, then they can shove their ads down our throats. Twitter has also successfully managed to become an RSS of sorts, with many blogs and media-houses auto-publishing to twitter, one can easily curate their feeds in a list and follow news as it happens. The RSS reader tended to take a beck seat in events, it was hidden back there, while apps like Pulse have widgets and push notifications that keep the user going back to them.

If this is not the way Google wishes to repackage their product then I welcome your opinions on the same. The fact that products can have a mobile first approach and scale quite so big must have bothered Google to the point of going back to the drawing board. Remember the number of attempts that Google has made into the social networks foray before they had a product that finally has some  way with users?

IMG Credit: BusinessWeek