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Laugh It Up Google

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
1 min read

Today (April Fools Day) we're reminded how much time and money Google spends on gags. A fraction of that money would have been enough to support Google Reader.

Google Reader (2005-2013) was the RSS service most regular people used to read blogs. But RSS is an open format. At its heart, Google is an ad company, and if you didn't directly use Google Reader in your browser (if you used an app of your choosing), Google couldn't throw ads at you and trap you in a Google+ walled garden like Facebook (which Google had an obsession with at the time). So, they killed it.

Private companies can do what they want with their own services. I'm not arguing that. But instead of trying to find a way to make a buck off the service, Google chased the mega bucks they knew Facebook would eventually enjoy. In short, they bet against their users to please potential advertisers. That, I can't abide.

Readers had become so devoted to Google Reader, it didn't make sense to many that a popular service like this might disappear (the ad-based economy often ignores sane things like asking for money from customers). It also didn't help that the death notice appeared buried in a press release no casual reader would read, taking many by surprise.

The decision to end Google Reader killed independent blogging as we knew it. The popular bloggers, like Seth Godin, who didn't throw in the towel, saw their readership drop by half.

Readers fled to social media to get their content, where they were increasingly encouraged (and often tricked) into staying within the walls of the service with its rules about what was acceptable content.

The goal was to keep you away from the open web. I still love the open web.

Google can do what it wants, but the memory of what it did to my favorite writers and photographers, and its obsession with tracking me wherever I go has ensured I'll be using Apple products (superior privacy), DuckDuckGo (a better search engine), and 1Blocker (blocks Google from tracking you through their extensive ad networks) for the foreseeable future.

This post originally appeared in my personal newsletter.