The Cloud Dissipation Problem

by Dave Michels

Google has decided to kill Reader. This is not the first time a product I use and value has been discontinued. I continue to use lots of products that were discontinued, such as my TV and car. The difference is my TV and car continue to work just fine. I can still get service, and parts will remain available for quite some time.

Google Reader will be gone on July 1. Google considers its obligation nothing other than notifying me that the service will be euthanized. Certainly Google has no obligation to provide me a free service, and should they opt to discontinue it, that’s within their prerogative. Complaining about it is silly, I should be thankful for the years of service and enjoyment Reader has provided.

The point I wish to make isn’t about Google Reader – it is about the cloud. The cloud has no obligation to continue to service, just as Kodak has no obligation to continue. Google may be too big to fail, but Google Reader is not.

When you rely on a cloud provider, you are at greater risk than relying a product. Yes, you can distribute that risk, but the point when a hosted provider ceases its services – you just might wish you had kept that Nortel system.

This isn’t the first time Google screwed with Reader. In an attempt to help its Google+ network, it broke the share button in Reader. I regularly use Reader to review my news, and when I come across a suitable article to tweet, I “shared” it. I solved this problem with a service from Pinboard. But during this debacle, it was clear that Google Reader had killed off many of the alternatives.

It is hard to compete with free, so viable alternatives disappear off the market. I’ve noticed this with other products – try to find a cheap, yet robust screensaver that can show your photo library. Picasa is one of the only options, and it’s not a good option. I have a big disk of photos with multiple directories and Picasa only goes three directory levels deep – surely there must be alternatives. I haven’t found one – they all disappeared After Dark.

I need to replace Google Reader – it is a valuable tool. I know Outlook has a decent RSS reader, so maybe it’s time to move back to Office – I think that is what Google is suggesting. I have not checked these out yet, but here’s a short list of Reader replacements for evaluation:

  • Feedly
  • BlogLines
  • Netvibes
  • NewsBlur
  • Fever

I will check these out. While I am doing that, perhaps as Obi-Wan Kenobi suggests, you should go home and rethink your life – at least as far as cloud choices are concerned.