Farewell to Reader

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
The internet worked itself into a fevered uproar last week when Google announced through their official and Reader blogs that Google Reader would be retired later this year (July 1, 2013 to be exact). The shutdown has been covered pretty heavily in the blogosphere since then. I'm not going to delve into the many conspiracy theories surrounding Reader's deprecation. However, I did want to at the very least comment on how important Reader has been to me since I first started using it a back in 2009.

Reader never gained a mainstream following. It grew from the ambitions of 20% project started by +Chris Wetherell and gained a cult-like following both inside and outside of Google that permeates to this day. This despite a general lack of upkeep and the removal of deep sharing and other social features not intrinsically linked with Google+.

Following its ill received redesign in October of 2011, +Kevin Fox, the former Reader UX lead who no longer works at Google, even went so far as to offer to fix all the problems the redesign introduced. He was of course turned down.

The tenuous history of Reader is probably best described in this BuzzFeed article originally shared with me by +Alex King. When push comes to shove, passionate Googlers crafted a niche product that was always destined to have fairly limited appeal outside its core demographic audience. Reader was never meant to be for everyone.  However, for those who appreciated its utility, it unarguably became a meaningful part of their lives by allowing them to easily segment the entire web into digestible bits.

For me, Reader was a way to take the overwhelming amount of information the internet threw at me each day, and break it apart in a manner such as to provide the greatest amount of personal significance. Each morning after reading +The New York Times, I would move onto Reader and quickly skim through all of the new blog posts published by my friends and family in the past day. Or maybe I might choose to read through a group of curated sites devoted to reviewing comics, or new alternative album releases, or a collection of blogs related to my alma-matter the University of Washington, etc, etc.

Reader was whatever you wanted it to be. When I first interviewed for my current position at Google, a standard question asked by the hiring committee is usually, "What is your favorite Google product?". This question is usually followed up with, "...and how would you improve that product?".

Of course my answer was, without hesitation, Google Reader. And of course, I had an overwhelming amount of feedback to provide on how Reader might be improved. What I didn't know at the time, and a large part of the reason that Reader has been neglected for so long, is that it no longer aligns to Google's vision for a more social web. As much as I might disagree with that sentiment, Reader to Google was a useful social experiment, no more, no less.

I truly believe in my heart that Google is the greatest company I could ever hope to work for. I just hit my two-year mark as a Googler, and in that time I count myself fortunate to have worked alongside some of the smartest and most passionate individuals I have ever had the opportunity of knowing. Not only that, but I also believe that Google as an organization truly cares about their employees. Google genuinely wants me, as an individual, to thrive and succeed.

With those beliefs in mind, it makes it that much more painful when Google does something that breaks my heart as is the case with the shutting down of Reader. Sure there are other alternatives out there, and with time they'll fill the hole in the internet that Reader leaves. But deep down, it's projects like Reader that made me so passionate to join a company like Google. Seeing them slowly disappear isn't always easy.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.