A Recent Life Lesson I Learned From The Death Of My Old Friend - Goggle Reader
So right now you might be asking yourself…”Uh, what’s the point?” The point is this: if the number one free service on the web is having the plug pulled, what guarantees do you and I have that it will stop with Google Reader? Millions of people who love and use Reader every day have now had their eyes opened to a very scary possibility. What today is happening with Reader could happen to any of us, and with any of the tools we love, use and rely on! Uh, oh! Houston, we have a problem! There isn’t a day that goes by you and I aren’t bombarded via our computers, smartphones, and tablets trying to “hook” us to try the latest “new thing”—new sites, new apps, new products, new websites, and new services – all promising to make our life, or business, or whatever so much more awesome than ever before. You are aware, aren’t you, of the inherent danger of committing too hastily, too deeply with the latest technological wonder tool? I suggest before you invest too deeply, you might ought to spend some time checking out reliable reviews from the tech pundits. And even then, I mean, who can know? After all the assessments converge, who would blame you if in the swirl of the excitement about the latest “new” thing if you close your eyes and make the blind leap of faith? I remember back when Google launched Reader in 2005, the company’s spiel was it would be around forever! And my guess is they probably really thought it would be. We all took them at their word, and now we’ve been royally burned.
Google Reader’s death knoll illustrates for all of us the terrible downside of “ALL” cloud-based software—you never can tell when your favorite, most indispensable tool just might up and vanish. Back in the day, when we all relied on desktop software, if it was discontinued it wasn’t necessarily really dead. Anyone remember WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3? I still know people who are using this software in a DOS emulator. With Desktop software there are workarounds. But when cloud-based software dies, it goes away immediately and forever. “If” the company that’s killing it is decent, they might let you export your data (and they might not!). But either way, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will never, ever be able to use its code again. Bye-Bye.
So what’s my point? We should all take the news of Google Reader’s death as a serious wake-up call—a sobering reminder that any time you choose to get involved with the latest new app or service, you had better spend some time thinking about the long haul. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not always such a good idea to hook up with every great app that comes down the pike, even if it is flashy, innovative and mind-bogglingly cheap or even free (like Google Hangouts). Actually, as I think about it, if it is inexpensive, or if it is free, you really should be wary. Why? Because good software is expensive. Duh? To develop and maintain quality software, services and tools requires engineering and design talent that will only stick around when a company has an obvious long-term, sure-fire options to make money (and lots of it). If you want tools that will be around for awhile, it isn’t enough to be excited about how well they work. You also have to be sure that there’s a rock-solid business model attached to it as well.
And if that tool happens to be indispensable to you—you might just want to think about choosing one of those incredibly old-fashioned software companies that will allow you to pay for its stuff. Really. While paying for software is no guarantee that it will be around forever [companies that accept your money can always go out of business]. But companies that charge for their wares are at least sending out the signal that their software is every bit as important to them as it is to you! On the other hand, companies that don’t charge for their product(s) and won’t even say how the product you love so much will ever make any money—while they are fun for a romp in the sun, don’t be surprised when they exit stage left in the middle of the night when you are least expecting it.
This calculus becomes especially difficult with all the popular software available today from Google, a company that doesn’t charge for most of what it does, isn’t transparent about how its products or services make a profit, and seems to be very fond of experimenting with lots and lots of new products (and, lately, of killing off stuff that’s not part of its “current” central mission).
Don’t panic though. There are many free Google products that you can absolutely use without any fear that they will just up and go away. Search is Google’s main moneymaker, so there’s no risk there. Chrome is pretty safe, too, as it the largest pusher of traffic to the rest of Google’s menagerie of products. Gmail displays customer paid ads alongside of your email, but its real value to Google is the way it “encourages” you to stay logged in to your Google account, which allows Google to learn more about you and what you do as you skip merrily around the Web (and, thus, feed deeper and deeper into its ad revenue). So there’s no chance of Google killing Gmail. The free version of Google’s online productivity software, Docs, doesn’t turn much of a profit on its own, but it is crucial to Google’s new Chromebook project, so I am betting it isn’t going anywhere soon. And then there’s our all-time favorite – Google+, the search company’s favorite child and social network. Sure, it’s a ghost town—in fact, according to the latest figures, the alleged declining Google Reader actually drives far more traffic across the Web than Google+. But Google’s continuing efforts to deeply integrate all of its products into Google+ shows that it is heavily investing to make sure it works. So if you’re that one guy, or gal, that is using Google+, don’t fret.
Having said that however, there are several other Google products I am more than a little concerned over. First, there is Google Voice, which assigns you a phone number that rings all the rest of your phones. I like Google Voice. I use Google Voice, so if it were shut down tomorrow, I would be scrambling to send my new phone number to many of my friends and professional contacts. So, why am I worried that it might eventually disappear? Because Google Voice has no clear business model. Google refuses to charge for the service. Furthermore, it has been several years since Google has updated the service. And several Google Voice loyalists have been sending out alerts that last year Google moved a link to Voice from the drop-down menu labeled More in its navigation bar to a deeper, nested menu labeled Even More. Was this change significant? I don’t know. But it doesn’t give me any warm fuzzies—and it bothers me enough that I have started looking for alternatives from companies that are charging for their services.
Or how about Google Scholar, the academic papers search engine? My wife, Dr. Kaye, uses Scholar all the time. It is an extremely useful service that fits in with Google’s larger mission of making the world’s knowledge universally accessible. But have you noticed that Google doesn’t display any ads in Scholar, and I haven’t ever found anyone who has the foggiest idea of how Scholar is adding anything to Google’s profit margin. So what do you think, might its disappear some day as well? Uhmm?
Google Reader’s death announcement is a wake up call to all of us, and provides several lessons to us (related even to software not part of the Google suite). If I really find some software that I find useful or absolutely necessary, if it has a pay option, I might ought to consider paying for it! I highly encourage you to consider doing the same, if you can afford it (and maybe, even if you can’t – because the real question is, can you afford the tool you “need” to suddenly vanish?). Free stuff online is great. I love free. I mean, I “really” love free. But you and I both know that nothing is really free, and absolutely nothing is absolutely free forever. So if you have tools that you like and depend on, you might ought to open your wallet!
This article was originally published at DNettv,com