The closure of Google Reader is a reminder of both the dangers and opportunities of cloud-based services. When they’re gone, they’re really gone — then what are you going to do?
Nearly a week ago, Google announced something which made me, and hundreds of thousands of other users, freak out: the search giant is killing its RSS aggregator, Google Reader. Google cited a low and declining number of users as the reason for the axing of the service.
To give you any indication of just how big a deal this is, both the death of Google Reader and the election of Pope Francis were announced about the same time. Google Reader was the highest trending topic on Twitter.
Google Reader is probably the best available RSS aggregator. RSS stands for “really simply syndication”; the technology is a way of aggregating all the news flowing through a site. Instead of going to the site, you just import that site’s RSS feed and then flick through the headlines in Google Reader, just like you would an email inbox.
For a newshound like me, and scores of other users, it’s an essential tool. I have over 120 sites in my feed and I rely on Reader to bring me up-to-date results for every one of them. In short, it’s the most essential tool I use every day to do my job most effectively.
And soon, it’ll be gone.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? We depend so much on the cloud for our technology now and espouse its benefits but we forget what happens when companies take that power away.
Google controls the internet. For plenty of businesses, it controls the way they create documents, share files and organise their calendars. It even controls their email.
Now imagine what would happen if one of those services were to disappear. What would you do? For many, the answer would be, at least initially, go into panic mode.
But there’s a critical point to be made about Google Reader’s demise, which has already been pointed out by a few savvy developers. Although the service is set to die, this is actually a golden opportunity for developers.
Over the past few days, alternative RSS aggregators like The Old Reader, NewsBlur and Feedly have had so much attention, their servers crashed. Understandable.
Every death is an opportunity. Too many entrepreneurs don’t search for them. Over the next few months, we’re likely to see more developers try and create RSS-based solutions for Google Reader users.
It doesn’t sound glamorous, but a savvy product could do extremely well where there’s demand. It’s the first rule of business, really. Find a problem no one wants to solve, and then solve it yourself.