Yeah, Reader held back the development of the robot car, glasses, floating balloon internet and the brazilian social site...
Honestly I think Google went above and beyond by giving advance notice, having an API which allows feed exporting and allowing subscriptions to continue to be exported after they close it down for those who ignored the advance notice as well as linking to alternative products.
Sure it sucks for those who used it, but can you imagine a company like Apple or Facebook doing all that for a product they're killing?
To attack Google for shutting down Reader in general is, I agree, silly. They don't owe us anything, and they managed the shutdown fairly gracefully.
But that's not what was going on in the comment you replied to. He's pointing out that their stated justification doesn't make a lot of sense. Google says they're shutting down Reader to put more focus on a smaller number of products, but they're just as scattered as ever. Pointing out that their words don't match their actions here is a perfectly reasonable thing to do here.
Another example of how things have changed is the Hangouts app. Pretty much everyone who tested it internally asked for the status settings to be implemented before going public. It was ignored and that was the most criticized aspect of the app when it was publicly released.
The consequence of this is an eroded trust in the company and a reduced brand loyalty. I will think twice before using another Google product that might disappear in favor of some half-assed feature in G+, just because management has decided to bet the future of the company on social.
You can't criticize Google for shutting down Reader and then accuse them of being scattered in the same sentence. By shutting down Reader, they are limiting their scattering, and Reader is not the only product they are shutting down.
> Pointing out that their words don't match their actions here is a perfectly reasonable thing to do here.
Very true, that's why I'm pointing out that your words are inconsistent :)
They want to shut it down, fine, I don't really care. But the result is not "focus".
Not if, in the same period they "closed the Reader to in order to focus", they started more than one products, all around the map.
If I tell you:
"I stopped going to the gym in order to focus on my painting more. Oh, and I also started bowling, belly-dancing, snooker, and etching classes -- and I'm leaving next week for snorkeling in Thailand"
then I'd argue that me stopping 1 thing does not not in the least mean I'm more focused now.
The argument is they did it to "focus better".
You can not do something with the pretext of better focus and then do several other things that break that focus -- whether you were planning to do them anyway is irrelevant.
To put it in some (arbitrary but isomorphic to the argument) numbers, increasing your focus by 5 points and decreasing it by 20 still leaves you with a decrease of 15. Yes, it's better than decreasing it by 25, but that's not the point -- it's a minor pedantic correction. A decrease of 15 is hardly "focusing".
No, you very much can.
Since, you know, they are shutting down a product in their main area of expertise, only to pursue BS non-products all around the map.
I mean, they say their objective is "organizing the world's knowledge", but what's hanging up in the GooglePlex is SpaceShipOne, not a card catalog.
The "Googlers"? Marketing and business persons did this. If you have followed the story, there were posts describing how actual developer googlers used and loved Reader, and even tried to save it.
Seems like you bought hook line and sinker the BS PR copy they give.
For one, their core business is ads. Not search itself, not Android (a loss leader) and surely not flying robot cars.
Second, nothing "hackish" or "impossible" about most of which you describe.
Only the "web search engine that automatically finds the useful sites" fits the profile --and that's based on that Stanford research the founders did, not Google work. If anything, it deteriorated over time, with BS non results and meddling with it to promote ads and/or G+.
And even that was hardly impossible. The Chinese search engine Baidu is based on similar tech, which was also created in the US, independently of Google, around the same time (even actually predating PageRank (it's even mentioned in Google's US patents).
An "an email system with a hundred times as much storage as any other webmail system" was just a matter of resources and monetizing, not some special technology.
A "a draggable and zoomable world map in a browser" was bought from another company.
"gigabit fiber to the home" is offered in many parts of the world. That the US lacks in this area, is not something
"a free-software smartphone" -- what's innovative about it? They make money from ads. They give the software for free (especially since it was based on Linux and a modified Java SDK). And it's not like they made a killing off of it -- Samsung did.
"an easy-to-use system for writing fault-tolerant massively-parallel programs" What's that? Go? Because you make it sound like the created Erlang.
Etc. The rest are "robot cars" and "google glass" -- mainly half-baked prototypes, that tons of other companies would have put out if they a) have the money, b) liked to show half-baked stuff years ahead of any release date.
And "baloon internet". A PR stunt if I ever saw one.
To pick apart your post:
* "main area of expertise" is not the same thing as "main source of income".
* RankDex or for that matter HITS, is not the same thing as a search engine that you would actually use in preference to AltaVista; 1998 Google was already better than AV for the things that were in its index. Baidu didn't exist as a company until 2000.
* "just a matter of resources and monetizing" is hindsight bias. Hotmail was so sure Gmail was an April Fool's joke that they issued a response press release in which they offered more space than Gmail. The fact that Gmail was capable of offering two orders of magnitude more machine resources was, in large part, a result of internal infrastructural innovations at Google that weren't copied at other companies for many years. Of course, some people dismissed it as a "PR stunt".
* Where2 had a downloadable C++ desktop maps application and an idea about doing it browser-side when Google bought them. Gmail and Google Maps popularized AJAX, which had been previously considered impractical, despite our efforts at KnowNow.
* By "many parts of the world" do you mean a few apartment blocks in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Tokyo? I don't really think Kansas City is comparable in either density or wealth.
* I don't care what's innovative about Android (which, you forgot to mention, started as a separate company, like Where2). I care that I don't have to sign my first-born child away to Apple to program my smartphone. I'd care a lot more if Google had actually achieved what they set out to achieve with Android.
* If you're equating SquirrelFish (pre-Extreme) to the first release of V8, you're living in a fantasy world. There was an order of magnitude difference. Apple and Mozilla closed the gap substantially in the next few months because (a) V8 showed it was possible; (b) V8 showed how it was possible; and (c) V8 made it necessary.
* I meant MapReduce, which is another of those things that's obvious in hindsight, but was actually far from obvious, and which underpins nearly every data-heavy startup today.
* "Would have put out if" is Monday-morning quarterbacking, just like your hindsight bias on the other items. And there are plenty of companies with more money than Google that don't have robot cars on the road.
We'll see what happens with the robot cars and balloon internet. I think there's a substantial chance they'll fall far short of hopes, just like Wave (which I notice you didn't mention), but that's the way it is when you try things that may not be possible.
I'm not actually all that positive about Google, but I think that if you want to understand them, you need to understand what they value. You can do that without thinking, yourself, that it's awesome.
> Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful
How is Google Reader less fitting than, say, self-driving cars or balloon Internet? An RSS reader is quite literally a way to organize the world's information, perhaps the most relevant of the product offerings.
It's not about what is "more interesting", but "more relevant". They're closing down relevant products for interesting ones, which is not good...
Balloon internet is pretty high on the "universally accessible" front, I'd say. With regard to Reader, Google has a different way of organizing and providing access to RSS, atom, and similar information, PubSubHubbub (PuSH) -- both the protocol and Google's own PuSH hub -- which they are continuing to support and move forward with.
While this is infrastructure rather than end-user technology, it, at least arguably, has potentially much greater impact in terms of organizing information and making it accessible, and is much more the kind of thing Google is especially well-positioned to do, whereas end-user UI consuming feeds isn't something that really needs Google to do it.
Anyway, I thought this was some discussion about how Google may or may not be making a decision that will later in hindsight turn out to been bad for Google, followed by a tangent about whether anyone is allowed to make qualitative statements about any decision made by Google.
The tangent seemed sufficiently uninteresting before it descended further into an argument of semantics.
I'm not sure that's really true. PubSubHubbub -- which started out as a way to actively push updates to Atom/RSS feeds and has been generalized to be a way to do that for any HTTP resource -- seems to provide much of the same capacity, but to do so in a more general and better structured way (it requires the recipient to have the ability to receive as well as initiate HTTP requests, but it would be strange for someone complaining about Reader's demise to see that as a problem; any web-hosted feed reader is going to have to be able to serve HTTP requests anyway.)
They've shut down maybe 50 services over the past few years under this justification.
It's my impression that it's a little bit cliché and borderline to trolling: every time a "free" product is shutdown and people complain or discuss about it there is a good free-market capitalist soul coming with condescending comments about how people shouldn't expect anything when given something for "free".
We know it. It's still pissing users off. Deal with it.
I would think those characteristics would allow some kind of monetization via ads etc. I assume google looked at the numbers and saw that is not the case, and not simply at user growth. Cash cow vs growth vehicle kind of thing.
If i had to guess, it seems likely that RSS reader users are more likely to have ad-blocking enabled and less likely to click on ads if they see them. perhaps google wants to skew towards the more easily misguided.
Ultimately, if people log in less, and contribute less to the Knowledge Graph (crowd sourcing production of meta-data had to be worth something, after all) then its a net loss.
Google's experiments may cause them to believe this not to be the case, but the trouble with ruthless, consistent optimisation of individual features is that it tends to land you in a local minimum, which may not be the best end game for them.
That was what my post was meant to refute, and the weird sense of entitlement that Google is somehow in the wrong by killing a product which is a waste of resources for them. There are plenty of alternatives (and I suspect we'll see a whole bunch more over the coming months), complaining like we deserve reader to still be available (when consumer-pays products are clearly outside Google's business model) isn't helping.
Which is a pitch they continue to make, with Drive and Hangouts and each successive launch, but never once cautioning "btw if this doesn't work out for us we'll kill the service". They even relaunch previously failed projects in the same spaces where they've pulled this before, with Keep aiming for the same space Notebook (RIP) did. Do they think we're stupid?
They can't have their cake and eat it. They can position themselves as the trustworthy guardians for whom organising the world's information is the only goal, or they can position themselves as the ruthless capitalists where business is the ultimate goal, but they can't do both.
That's what people object to. You can say that they're naive for believing that a business won't put the bottom line first, but Google has always pretended otherwise, right from the first line of the IPO. "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one."
Fine, but then "any conventional company would do this" is not a good enough defence for your actions.
This gets repeated a lot (understandable given its launches proximity to the Reader shutdown notice) but its inaccurate. Keep doesn't address the same use case as Evernote/Notebook at all and isn't trying to. Its more of a Notepad/Apple Notes competitor if anything.
I don't like it either, but it's not the same as them just deleting your data suddenly, which you seem to be alluding to.
And I'm sick of hearing THIS argument. Google is a company. They make money out of our eyeballs. We have every right to criticise them whenever they do something some of us don't like.
You can't say "Please, let all of you use our products, it'll be awesome !", then say "we don't care if you're not satisfied, we do what we please". Having users also imply responsibilities.
2) Google does do support for some paid products they have. Like Adwords (of course) and GAE, and IIRC the enterprise Google offerings.
That said, I gave Feedly a shot the other day and immediately deleted my Reddit account. I haven't been back on Reddit except to read silly football transfer rumors in a week and a half. I feel so much more sane. So there's that.
As a side note, I hate that this is seen as "above and beyond" instead of "standard industry practice"
My read: the stated rationale for killing Google Reader, especially in light of the huge cry of protest and impacts on blog traffic (Rob Malda posted web traffic results showing huge declines at WordPress and other blog sites at WashPo) suggests to me something else at work.
Just a hunch.
Usual theory about driving "updates" traffic away from decentralized RSS and into proprietary arms of Google+. Twitter removed RSS feed access to an account's updates for the same reason.
But I completely agree that there is probably an alternate force at work here.