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Google Reader

RSS/Atom feed aggregator
Google Cemetery

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Google Reader was an RSS/Atom feed aggregator. It allowed users to subscribe to and keep track of multiple news feeds and share them with friends. They could find content with the Google Reader search feature or provide the tool with the URL of the RSS or Atom feed of the desired site. 

It was also the first application to use Google Gears (discontinued in 2011 and replaced by HTML5 standard) and offer an offline feature to readers. They could download up to 2000 items to read offline, and Reader updated them once the device was back online.

Google Reader

Cause of Failure

The official statement from Google was that the product had a loyal but declining following, and the tech giant wanted to focus on fewer products. They informed users that the application was to close on July 1, 2013.

Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives could export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout. Many users who did so moved to services such as Feedly, which follow the RSS-feed news model. 

Google most probably decided to abandon Reader because it just wasn’t what most people needed anymore. Reader and other RSS feed services catered to readers who followed the ‘old’ model of getting your news for the day in one go in the morning, followed by a smaller bout of reading in the evening. Google aimed to bring a new, more dynamic approach to news reading. 

They used Google Assistant’s partial predecessor – Google Now – which took into account people’s usage throughout the day and calculated what information to offer readers at different hours. Suggestions were made even more accurate by considering device location, date and time, and even whether the user was stationary or on the go. The sharing feature of Reader was supposed to be replaced by Google+ - Google’s version of a social network, which was shut-down in 2019.

Loyal users of Reader weren’t happy with the changes in news delivery Google was forcing on them. They viewed all that as an indication that Google was changing their approach to handling users. Google was changing its role from a ‘portal’ for the user visiting other sites to a system aiming to keep users engaged while delivering content to them.

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