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Google should be allowed to finally shut Reader

Google Reader will be gone come July 1, 2013. It's users are not that many - according to Google's standards, where "many" is in the hundreds of millions. A Google blog post in 2010 shows that the number of people using Google Reader was doubling year over year. As usual, Google did not give the actual number of users. 

For those not aware, Google Reader enables you to track all updates from various news sites and blogs. From a central place, you can subscribe and manage your online reading list. One does not have to visit each of their favourite list of sites and blogs to track updates, but can view all these from Google Reader.

What is however clear is that Google is bored with Google Reader. Last December, BuzzFeed reported that Google Reader had been facing threats of cancellation as early as 2010. In addition, the lengthy piece reports that Google recently re-assigned engineers from Google Reader to work on other products. A number of users even protested at Google offices against persistent threats of the firm closing down the service.

In 2011, Google changed Google Reader's interface to one that a number of users found quite non-functional. This led to the rise of a number of third party applications that were built on Google Reader, but improved on the functionality and interface, such as Feedly.

On Google's own Android ecosystem,  the situation was not any different, with a number of third party apps built on top of Reader providing better functionality and growing in popularity. Feedly has between 500,000 and 1,000,000 installs. gReader, an Android app exclusively dedicated to managing and accessing Google Reader's feed has between 1 million and 5 million downloads, which is the same number of downloads that Google's own official Google Reader Android app has.

Meanwhile, Google has continuously tweaked the interface of Gmail and especially that of Google+ both on web and on mobile. The changes have been received positively for the Gmail Android app, while many agree that the Google+ app is well done.

Google+, however is often criticised as a Google obsession that few actually directly use. The social network is the second most used in the world, just behind Facebook, with 235 million active users of over 500 million users. The number of active users has been reached by Google integrating Google+ features into other more used products.

A user does not have to directly visit the Google+ site to use Google+. Google+ is integrated into services such as Gmail through Hangouts, YouTube and the Android Play app store through comments and "+1" buttons. That though, does not discourage Google from putting more effort into building and pushing Google+. The service has even seeing aggressive marketing through dedicated events and partnerships in places such as Kenya, where Google rarely advertises it's other services.

As a plus, Google+ integration into other services sees Google collecting data such as comments and your approval of various items through giving them a "+1". Such data can be used by Google to improve its products and to understand its users better.

As for Google Reader, Google is clearly not interested in the service, and doesn't see much value in it. With "few" users, there probably isn't much value in mining Reader subscription data. 

It is therefore both in Google's best interest and that of Google Reader users to drop the product. Being the most popular feed subscription tool, it's demise gives an opportunity for a new, focused player to emerge and built on a better product. A focused player is also has a better chance at finding a way to make value off a feed subscription tool than Google has.


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