back to article Google+ architect: What was so great about Reader anyway?

The chief architect for Google+ is asking Google Reader users what they liked about the due-for-execution RSS service. The request for information comes after Google said it would kill the popular web-based RSS reader on 1 July 2013 as part of a round of "spring cleaning". Google is now pumping the community for information …


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  1. h3

    The fact that it didn't have any social features probably. (Afaict they were removed).

    This is the new Google anything that only benefits the consumer will be removed.

    (They didn't used to be like this and they are still making plenty of money so I don't see the point.)

    1. Greg J Preece

      (They didn't used to be like this and they are still making plenty of money so I don't see the point.)

      The point is that this was always going to happen, and those people who forgot that Google are a company, rather than their best mates, are suddenly wising up to it. Google spent a lot of money on goodwill in its earlier years so that they can abuse that position later. We got a lot of really great services from it, but there is always a price. Forget that at your peril.

      1. mattymil


        Well played.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      >>they are still making plenty of money so I don't see the point.

      Companies don't like to make "plenty" of money. They don't like to make a "reasonable" or "fair" amount of money. They want to maximise their income.

      They are under no obligation to make any of their products free except market pressure... trying to charge for gmail would make everyone leave.

      1. Vic

        > They want to maximise their income.


        But Google used to understand that *maximising income* usually means "not throttling the goose that lays the golden eggs". This knowledge seems to be fading.

        And so it is that Google is becoming that which it replaced, and is setting the marketplace uo fot someone else to come along and do to them what they did to AltaVista et al.

        Perhaps it'll be me[1].


        [1] It won't. I'm far too lazy these days.

    3. fandom

      The point is that everyone's bonuses depend on Google+ doing well.

    4. JMB

      Pity that they did not ask before replacing PICASAWEB with GOOGLE+.

      I hate the GOOGLE+ display of images.

      You can sometimes get it into PICASAWEB mode but you can guarantee it.

    5. Rob Moir

      Not to be harsh or anything but welcome to the real world.

      Companies exist to further their interests, and those of their owners and shareholders. Not yours as a customer. Not mine as a customer. Their own. Always have. **We're their customers, not their friends**.

      With free products like those from Google, where do you stand? Are those freebies the sprat to catch a mackeral, essentially a loss leader? Are they a way of gathering users and turning data on those users into something that can be sold to other businesses? Where do products like reader stand in this?

      This is why I've always been so suspicious of the Google "Don't be evil" thing, because sooner or later that was always going to be overtaken by "sorry, but there's profit to be had".

      People sneer at Apple and Microsoft, but at least they've always been relatively honest and up front about the relationship. If we give them money, they'll give us hardware and software and services. At least with those guys you always knew where you stood.

  2. Greg J Preece

    Of course it's going to be rolled into Google+. Google will keep rolling stuff into it and pushing that service like billy-oh until people bloody well start using it! Whether they want to is irrelevant; there's lots and lots of sexy personal data in them thar social netoworks, and Google want what Facebook has.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Google want what Facebook has.

      Unless they can dream up something that'll cause a max exodus of sheep from Faceberk to GooPlusUnGood, they are SOL there. The massive user base is a prerequisite for all that data mining being worth any more than sod all.

      The phrase; "throwing good money after bad" springs to mind.

      1. breakfast Silver badge

        The dream of a mass exodus.

        Facebook are working pretty hard on that exact feature set actually. Every time I log in, they seem to have made it a tiny bit more annoying.

        Of course a mass exodus is pretty unlikely, which is why we all use MySpace so much these days.

  3. Carlos TuTu III

    Bit late

    Seems like the sort of question that any normal company would ask their user base before they decided to axe a service to me.

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Google should adopt a system of open sourcing any code they feel is unworthy of commercialization. If they kill a project, then open source it for the masses. Just because they can't make it work, does not mean someone else can't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're almost saying Google should give away cool stuff that could benefit the competition. Why would a big data slurping commercial company do that?

      There may be lots of their more valuable IP underneath anyway.

      1. Craigness

        They wouldn't kill a service that was making decent money so why would the competition take the services on? If they wanted to slurp data they'd keep the services running.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      So they should spend $millions and then give it away? It's their code, for them to bury or burn if they want since they paid for it.

      I do fully support the IDEA of them doing as you suggest, just not that they have any moral duty to even consider it.

      Although, isn't this exactly what happened to Wave?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: open source

      What would be the point? It's not like there aren't many, many RSS readers out there in open source already. What made Google Reader better than them was the back-end server-side infrastructure used to sync things between multiple devices, and possibly to reduce load on the feed servers through a caching layer, both of which would be heavily dependent on Google-specific architecture, which frankly would be useless to anyone else.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google is an advertising company. I never experienced a single ad in Google Reader, so this was no surprise. It's clearly just a Google skunkworks product that gained quite a bit of traction. It had some great points and it had a couple of weak points, but on the whole it was a good service.

    It'll be a shame to see it go, but I can't see how Google make any money from it in it's current form and after all they are a business they want to fleece you just as much as Apple and Microsoft

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Maybe when you start up a company, rather than 'fleecing' your customers you can pay developers £30k a year to write lovely software you give away, running on servers you pay for.

      Of course you won't be doing it for very long.

      Seriously get a grip. It's not 'fleecing' for a company not to give stuff away for free. It's only ever done to build a brand or on the shareware principle (I'm not considering ad-supported as free).

    2. Hungry Sean

      not thinking hard enough

      Maybe google aren't either though--

      surely having the information on all of the news feeds that individual users follow, as well as the particular articles they read, time they access them, etc. has some value for building more sophisticated models of your users and thus delivering better targeted ads to them throughout the google ecosystem, providing more interesting demographic reports to advertisers, identifying brand loyalties, etc. Just look at the article recently about what is possible based on mere "likes"

  6. RachelG
    Thumb Down

    The fact that it was *just* an rss reader, without all sorts of irrelvant social media crap, and can be used seamlessly across many devices.

    Trying to get used to Feedly for the last 24 hours. It's so... bloody... annoying...

    But I think we're reminded of the saying: If something's free, you're not the customer. You're the product.

    1. frank ly

      re. Feedly

      Feedly is BLOODY ANNOYING, especially its built-in browser that doesn't work properly, especially on The Register's site. Why oh why can't they use the default Android browser? I need to find something else.

      1. Natalie Gritpants

        Re: re. Feedly

        tt-rss looks very simple and may be what you want. All the data stays on your computer so only you can shut it down or mine it and sell adverts to show your own eyeballs. Also has debian packages. is looking more and more necessary even in free societies.

        1. Craigness

          Re: re. Feedly

          You don't control the adverts, the creator of the feed controls the adverts. If they put "Buy more bread" into their feed then will tt-rss block the phrase for you?

        2. frank ly

          @Natalie Gritpants Re: re. Feedly

          I had a quick look at tt-rss and it seems to need some server-side work at my end, which I'm not willing or able to do. Maybe someone will set up a feed/store service, which I wouldn't mind paying a small subscription for and I don't care who knows that I read El Reg and other websites. I realise that other people's situations may differ.

          Many organisations seem to be jumping into the hole that Google Reader will leave behind and many are preparing a 'replacement' for it. I tried NewsBlur which seemed to fit the bill but their Android app doesn't work - fail. I'll wait until early June and see what happens.

          Check out this article on a Digg 'replacement' for Google Reader:

          Read it and weep. It looks like we're going to be force fed social crap sandwiches.

          @Craigness: This is about a replacement for Google Reader, especially its ability to synchronise across many devices. If you subscribe to an RSS feed, you get what the site owner gives you. This is the same for all RSS readers, unless you make your own very clever one.

          1. frank ly

            NewsBlur - updated opinion

            I said that the NewsBlur Android app didn't work in my previous post. This seems to be because I tried to create an account using it - at which it failed. If you use a browser to go to their site, you can set up an account there and either pull in your feed list from Google Reader, or manually set them up - which I did because I only have 6 feeds. Then, the NewsBlur Android app does seem to work, after you sign in. There is also an independent reader called Blar which uses the NewsBlur backend.

            Note: The free version of NewsBlur only lets you have 12 feeds, the premium version costs $24pa.

            In terms of layout, the browser version is fairly clean and simple and has lots of customisation and adjustable pane views, but not as good as Google Reader in terms of clean simplicity. The Android readers are very clean and simple but don't have panes so you go from one full screen to the next and have to use Back to get to your previous list/view. It does use the Android default browser though, which is good news.

            Anyway, give it a try and good luck with finding a suitable replacement before July.

            1. Barry Rueger

              Re: NewsBlur - updated opinion

              Ahem: "Due to overwhelming demand, free accounts are temporarily suspended.

              By going premium you get full access to NewsBlur."

      Thumb Up

      Yanobs Reader is the way to go!

      Have you tried Yanobs Reader ?

      It is a really simple and free RSS reader, and you can import your Google Reader data (import the subscriptions.xml file as OPML).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It appeared and killed off the competition largely. So it's pretty obvious that when it goes there will be a gap.

  8. Pat 11

    Leaving Google didn't hurt. Who knew?

    Moved my subs to netvibes. No pain whatsoever. Which makes me think maybe I could ditch Gmail. And Google search. And Google Shopping.

    Feels a bit like that moment when Microsoft introduced Vista and people started loving Apple.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Leaving Google didn't hurt. Who knew?

      Here, let me pass this toy back to you, it seems to have fallen out of the pram.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Leaving Google didn't hurt. Who knew?

        > let me pass this toy back to you, it seems to have fallen out of the pram.

        You'll regret that. Ever played with a baby? Throwing toys out of a pram and waiting for a grownup to pick it up is the greatest game around. It'll be thrown out again in seconds, just to see how often you'll pick it up. Worse than playing with a kitten, that is :)

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Leaving Google didn't hurt. Who knew?

      DuckDuckGo is a good place to start for search...

  9. kilgore trout

    The pitfall of the cloud

    As a heavy user of Reader, it's only natural I would be annoyed. But I hardly think that I'm a leach on Google. Surely the feeds that I subscribe to add to the mining data Google acquires about me, and that is an exchange that I'm willing to make. I've also paid for the "professional" services Google offers (docs/drive, mail etc) for the last few years, and this only serves to emphasise the point that hitching yourself to the cloud is a high-risk endeavour. Service providers can whisk away their offerings at ay point leaving you high and dry. (ActiveState did that a while back with their dropped Firefly service and I got burnt by that too. It makes me question getting involved with their other cloud services such as Stackato.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That G+ thread is quite clearly epic fail

    As most users are unware that their main reason for using Reader is easily replicated in a million other tools.

    "I use it to get a textual version of the page".

    Errm, Use a feed reader, there are hundreds of them. decent browsers do it for you (Opera certainly does). You can even use a mobilizer like Google's or Instapaper....

    Seems like it's the same old cretins that just campaign when something gets taken away, and nowhere in the thought process in their simple minds is the question "did I really care?" considered.

    It's the pathetic PS3 OtherOS all over again...

    1. Subtilior

      Re: That G+ thread is quite clearly epic fail

      The two things Reader gives you that feed readers generally don't are firstly, automatic synchronization between devices, and, secondly, a memory of all the items in the feed back to 2006 (or whenever).

    2. Shardik

      Re: That G+ thread is quite clearly epic fail

      Maybe it's the Cretins that can't actually see what other people get from the service that they can't get elsewhere.

      Maybe it's the reason that most RSS feed readers on mobile devices sync to google reader.

      Grow up mate, just because you can't see what it did, and over 50,000 people CAN, it doesn't make them a bunch of cretins.

  11. Craigness


    The quip about not being able to show ads in reader makes no sense. They would scrap Maps, Sites, Docs, G+ and others if this was their policy. In any case, they did provide an RSS ad service until recently, which would have shown their own ads in reader if you subscribed to people who use google ads.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Adsurd

      If you think Maps is free of advertsing, I wonder if you've been using *Google* maps?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What people liked about it

    Was that it continued to work as it had without requiring more learning or fuss or configuration than they had already done. And what they dislike about the alternatives is that they all require additional fuss, learning, and configuration. You see what happens when that fact is disrespected. Don't expect them to migrate to Google's preferred alternative after Google cut the rug out from them.

    The downside of a free service is that they can always just give you a refund.

  13. CaptainHook

    Asking Too Late

    Reader must of cost peanuts to run in the grand scheme of things, provided a reason for people to log into Google's servers everyday and must have given some pretty nice user profiles based on stories actually being read, in real time.

    I've already cleaned out all the feeds from Reader and started looking for alternatives. That lead me into the depths of Google Account management pages which reminded me of how many services I used to use so I decided to dump everything I'm not actively using any more.

    That means getting rid of AdSense accounts, Blogger, Picasa Web etc. The only one I've left up is GMail and I stopped using that as my primary email account when G+ was introduced and I decided Google were in too many aspects of my life to risk banning because I didn't use a real name on G+

    Note: This is not me trying to score points or show Google how angry I am etc. I'm just tidying up ahead of making sure Google isn't as important to my online life anymore.

    I think Google under estimated Readers usefulness, not as a product in it's own right, but as a gateway into Google's ecosystem. That they don't understand that reinforces my believe that it's time to ensure Google aren't the gate keeper to the services people use daily.

    1. Phil 54

      Re: Asking Too Late


      I stay signed in to Google for one reason and one reason only: so that I can quickly go to Reader and read any new articles I'm interested in.

      I get my emails on my phone and I don't give a rat's arse about personalized search, Google+, or any of the other "benefits" of staying signed in to Google. The end result to Google is that I will now sign out, clear cookies and stop feeding them data (or at least stop feeding them as much data).

  14. RonWheeler

    Here is why

    With RSS I can get text only information without all the flash/adverts etc html crap. Also most sites have specific areas / subsites that could be read without going via the main landing page. In short, I tend to use RSS like a constantly updating index.

    1. mickey mouse the fith
      Thumb Down

      Re: Here is why

      "With RSS I can get text only information without all the flash/adverts etc html crap."

      ^This 1000 times.

      Why on earth would i want to use a social networking system for this?, i dont care about other peoples feeds or what they +1`d or whatever inane celeb gossip is `trending` and i certainly dont want them inserted into my feed list, same goes for advertising crap as well.

      Social networks are simply the wrong place for rss reading, social networks are for idiots to bend over and give all the minute details of their boring lives to advertisers and spammers to spunk over.

      I imagine trying to sift through and organise a large rss feed library with g+ to be an absolute nightmare tbh.

      A lot of the other android news readers have shoehorned social features into the mix, and it waters down and ruins them.

      Of course, for google, seeing what everyones reading is an absolute goldmine for ad metrics so im not suprised they pulled this. I wont be using it though, il stick with feedr, its simple and does the job without any flannel. feedr doesnt sync across devices, but i dont really need that anyway so its all golden.

      1. Phil 54

        Re: Here is why

        "Of course, for google, seeing what everyones reading is an absolute goldmine for ad metrics so im not suprised they pulled this."

        You think they don't see what everyone's reading on Reader?

        All they've done is lost contact with those who like unadulterated RSS. We might be slightly fringe compared to most but that just means that we're more devoted to what we like. Reader users will move to another, non-Google, service, taking their data out of Google's ecosystem. They've shot themselves in the foot, methinks.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    They're probably going to find out how many of their more lucrative Google+ users were only there because of all the useful services Google provided, like Google Reader.

    I certainly have reduced my Google dependence to just Mail, Calendar and Translate and would simply have to find alternatives to those if Google decide they can't monetize them as much as their shareholders' greed demands.

    They're whittling away services that I use and, instead of channelling me into their Google+ centred world, it's just making me less of a Google user. I cannot be (I know I'm not) alone in this.

    So, just for future reference, does anyone know of a decent online shared Calendar app?

  16. aidanstevens

    What was so good about Google Reader?

    It was a clean, fast, reliable RSS reader.

    But somehow Google's "brainbox" Yonatan Zunger (six figure salary no doubt) has obviously not realised this.

    1. Stoneshop

      Re: What was so good about Google Reader?

      Or maybe he has, and considered it too clean. Entirely uncontaminated by cheese and web-2.0-orhea. Which must have been an abomination unto his eye.

    2. hmmm

      Re: What was so good about Google Reader? lacks social elements I hear Google scream?

      I don't need to know what some hipster had for lunch as I desperately search through the stream of crap on Twitter for some news. RSS gives me the meat and cuts out the dross.

  17. thecapsaicinkid

    Isn't a web version of Currents (with support for custom feeds) the blindingly obvious answer??

  18. KjetilS
    Thumb Up


    Based on someones mention further up, I installed TT-RSS on my server, and it's quite good actually. Almost as good as Reader.

    Looks aren't too different from Google Reader, and you can import the xml that Google gives you, so no need to re-enter feeds.

    There's also an Android app (there might be one for iOS as well, i haven't looked) that works. It isn't as good as the Googly one, but it's good enough, imho.

  19. Dummy00001

    "what are the aspects of the way Reader works that made it so useful for you?"

    From before the times of redesigns and the G+.

    1. (Major) It allowed to read the news in a undisturbed fashion. Without all the crap the modern Web throws at you with the animation and crap. (Later on some silly animation were added, but I can't remember for certain anymore - I have removed them with the Stylish early on.)

    2. (Nice to have) "Sharing" feature and friend's comments. That (killed in favor of G+) was something still unreplicated by no social network. In a very simple form you could see comments of you friends about news - on a single page. For no apparent reason all the "social" networks insist on the "share == own page."

    3. (Important) Excellent search/tagging/mass article management functionality. Kidding. Reader users begged for all of it for *years* and were simply ignored.

    Reader IIRC was a one man project in Google and was known to be abandoned for some years now.

    Overall, I do not think that Google as it is now can replicate the experience even of the old Reader. The web generation of today, Google developers especially, simply don't know simple things like "reading" anymore. They do not use their own services, they have forgotten what it is to be a user. Case in point: Google+.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google are strange

    They have succeeded through technological innovation only and user experience is off their radar.

    Look at Analytics, they dropped the summary view (where you can easily see a summary of all the sites you are tracking in one page) to be replaced by a situation where you can only see data by clicking into a site that is tracked.... what did they do with the space they saved? They put the google blog in there because clearly i want to read what some engineer is blogging about rather than the business data i am used to.

    Anyone who squeaks about it being free needs to recall the other often quoted phrase on there about if you don't pay for the product, you are the product.

    Google do search and advertising well. Android is not bad... the other web stuff from google is mediocre at best and only succeeds due to the massive push behind it from a huge force in controlling internet traffic.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asking the question shows he just doesn't get it

    Fast, simple, effective. Everything Google Reader is (or at least is via gReader)

  22. ACx

    "Capture that value".

    Phrases like that make me feel violent.

  23. Tom 13

    Not a Reader user myself,

    but it would seem to me that it would be the quick and simple aggregation of information by a service without needless intrusion from things in which the user is uninterested. If it made it available offline that would be even better. I like checking things on my train ride where internet connectivity is spotty at best.

  24. asdf

    >"I have a question for avid Google Reader users: what are the aspects of the way Reader works that made it so useful for you?" Yonatan Zunger wrote on his G+ page.

    If he really cared about the answer to that question he might put it on a site people might actually visit.

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