I don’t know how much Google is saving by killing off Reader, but it is rapidly becoming clear that it wasn’t worth it.
Most people don’t know what an RSS reader is and Reader never became a popular offering on the scale of, say, Gmail. But it was heavily used by techies, especially tech writers who counted on it to provide easy access to a broad variety of industry information. I definitely count myself among them. So the decision to kill Reader after years of neglect caused widespread dismay among industry influencers.
The cost of this became clear when, a week after the Reader announcement, Google rolled out Keep, a competitor to Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, and other note-taking and syncing apps. GigaOm’s Om Malik led the charge with a post headlined Sorry Google; you can Keep it to yourself.” His argument: “It might actually be good, or even better than Evernote. But I still won’t use Keep. You know why? Google Reader.” IDG’s Jason Snell chimed in with a tweet: “Can’t wait for Google to cancel Google Keep in four years after it’s decimated Evernote’s market.”
Google, of course, has the right to kill off any service it wants, especially where it provides the service without charge and has no contractual relationship with users. But Google wants to be something new in the world: A company that can be a trusted partner providing services at little or no cost. But gaining trust requires confidence on the part of customers that the services will be there after they have come to depend on them. The termination of Reader did grave damage to that trust. The price was a rocky launch for Keep, even though the product itself generally got good reviews.
Like Malik and Snell, I’m sticking with Evernote, which is offered in both free and premium paid versions. The company is doing well and note-taking and related services are its only business, so I have confidence it’s not going to abandon the market. But Google is going to have to work hard to convince me it can be trusted.