03.14.13

In Soul-Destroying Move, Google Kills Google Reader

The Internet giant killed its RSS reader, burying the news during the pope’s announcement. But that hasn’t stopped the outraged masses from rising up. Winston Ross on the backlash.

If Google “senior vice president technical infrastructure and Google fellow” (that’s really his title) Urs Hölzle thought he could sneak the news that the company is killing Google Reader past the Internet by burying it in a blog post about “spring cleaning,” the same day A NEW POPE WAS ANNOUNCED, he’s gotten a rude awakening over the past 24 hours. 

Use of the Internet behemoth’s RSS reader may have “declined” since it launched in 2005, as Hölzle reports, but those remaining stalwarts blew a gasket when the bomb dropped. Consider a three-minute sampling of reactions on Twitter on Thursday morning: 

From @theeUrbanPRINCE, “The hell am I supposed to do without Google Reader?!”

And @ejgthompson, “Google reader. Why has thou forsaken me?”

Or @smrtmouse, “WHAT!?! What is happening to google reader?” 

The sadness, shock and outrage is international. @PIPEROD1984 wrote somberly and in Spanish, “No va más. Google anuncia que Google Reader desaparece el 1 de julio.”

And @rdzviper had only this to say: “Google reader закрывают. Печально, я им активно и регулярно пользовался.” (Both of those translate to “this Google Reader shutting down business is sad.”)

Up jumped a website, BringGoogleReaderBack.com, which consists only of a GIF of a woman looking taken aback, with the headline, “Dear Google, you should bring back Google Reader.”

Change.org is going bananas too. Spokeswoman Aften Lay tells The Daily Beast that seven—count them, seven—Google Reader–related petitions have popped up on the site since yesterday’s announcement. The largest one was the most active on the site as of late Wednesday night, having tripled in size in a single hour. By Thursday morning the signature count had nearly hit 50,000.

“No va más. Google anuncia que Google Reader desaparece el 1 de julio.”

A petition to the White House was also quickly posted, only to be taken down by the Googler in chief Thursday morning.

A Google spokeswoman declined to add to Hölzle’s blog post, to share any of the numbers of current users, or to respond to the Interwebs’ resulting conniption. By one estimate, however, Google Reader logs way more traffic than the company’s newer Google+, which makes you wonder.

But the news has prompted a flurry of websites eager to collect clicks by pointing readers to the site’s alternatives and a full-fledged geek debate about whether RSS—nicknamed Really Simple Syndication—feeds are obsolete. 

“RSS? That's just a mess created by a Web that has proliferated so dramatically that my little set of favorite sites and authors was woefully inadequate to uncover the wheat hidden amidst all of that chaff,” wrote Christopher Dawson at ZDNet. “It's no wonder that Google has seen such a drop in usage that they could no longer justify keeping the product active.”

To which Dawson received a flood of snarky replies, including this, from Voyager529: “See Chris, there's a false conclusion being drawn here. It says that since Twitter exists and people post links on twitter, that there's no need for RSS anymore. That's like saying that Mass Effect 3 didn't need a single player campaign because they introduced multiplayer.”

Google broke one of the 10 commandments of cyberspace Wednesday: don’t piss off your rabid fan base. But chances are, the company will get through all this just fine.