So all of those things taught me something very valuable about timing. You can have the funniest joke, an amazing routine, or a fantastic song; but if your timing is off, it’s going to fall flat.
Speaking of falling flat, let’s talk about Google Keep.
Keep is a new service Google launched to compete with Evernote and various other note taking apps that have been on the market for years. I remember the halcyon days before Evernote when I wrote things down in a notebook. (I still write things down in a notebook.) I also remember the days before I started using Evernote when I kept much of my online jottings in something called a Google Notebook.
Wait, that’s right, Google used to have a service called Google Notebook, but they killed it. Shortly after that I started playing with Evernote which, you may notice, is still around. Now Google wants me start using Keep? Why? Why should I go back to a service that was canceled in a “spring cleaning”? (I think “Stalinist purge” is a better euphemism.) Okay, well maybe I’ll take a look at it. If nothing else, maybe I can share some links to it from Google Reader so I can check them out later.
Google has a habit of killing off services so they can concentrate efforts on other services. That’s fine, especially when the service up against the wall, wearing a blindfold and smoking a last cigarette happens to be Google Wave. I’m still not sure what the hell they were trying to accomplish with that. It was like Gmail met 4chan at a bar, they both got incredibly drunk, and then woke up in bed together the next morning at a hotel called wave.google.com. When a service is failing, there’s no point to keep it going. When no one cares and when few people (relative to your user base) are using a service, then yeah, put it down like Old Yeller.
Reader, meanwhile, is used by tens of millions of people. Thanks to the Google Operating System blog, I can actually back up that statement. CNN has over 24 million subscribers. Endgadget has over 6.6 million subscribers. The hilarious webcomic Cyanide & Happiness has 108,000 plus subscribers. People use this service, there are eyeballs there, and Google never tried to monetize it. For a company that wants to make money, they sure have a strange way of going about it.
Sure there are the arguments about whether or not it was a good idea to have such a huge company controlling a big chunk of the RSS aggregation action. That’s for someone else to debate because the only thing I’m saying here is completely non-debatable, millions of people use Google Reader, and it’s still getting the sword.
You don’t screw people like that and then offer up a shiny new service and say “Here! Try this! We think you’ll like it!”
Maybe we will, but what happens if we do? Will Google kill it a few years later because it’s not meeting their expectations, expectations that are never shared with the users? I’m not saying that Google won’t ever share expectations for services, but I am saying that I can fire-up Notepad, type a quick note, save it to my hard drive, and barring hard drive failure, that note will be there years later. It won’t suddenly up and dissolve because Microsoft decided to stop making Notepad. Even if Microsoft did discontinue Notepad (still known to some as the best HTML editor in the world) it wouldn’t matter. You’d be able to read that note with any other text editor that understands standard ASCII text.
And that’s the trick, see? Standards. ASCII is a standard. RSS is a standard. You can use any app that reads ASCII to read your note and you can use any app that groks RSS to read feeds.
So why not do that?
And Now, Dog Metaphors
In my search for an RSS reader, I’m looking for something, eventually, that’s not tied to a specific service. I know this will be a tad inconvenient because syncing from one device to another won’t work as well as it did with Reader. Then again, the more I think about it, I look at my information consumption ecosystem and think, okay… where do I actually read this stuff?
Actually, it’s on my tablet. Most all of my feeds are read on my tablet. I occasionally read something on the PC, but at least 90% of my RSS consumption goes through my tablet. What that boils down to is that I only need one replacement for Reader, one that works on my tablet. I recommend my fellow feed heads do the same thing. Where do you primarily read your feeds, then that’s the first place you address your addiction. Everything else is just “I also use….”
But it goes beyond that. Remember that standards thing? Google uses them, sure, but you can use them too without ever involving Google or anyone else. You can have a portable notepad on your tablet or laptop without Google or Evernote or Microsoft or anyone else getting their paws on it. You can read feeds without any big corporate involvement. You can support independent developers and use apps so well suited for the tasks at hand, that you wonder why you ever bothered with the big corporate stuff. If Press can keep its act together after Reader shuts down, then it will most certainly become my primary RSS feeder. Feedly has already said it will make the transition from Reader to standalone. In other words, you’re seeing some great products say goodbye to Reader and set off on their own.
That doesn’t temper the sting too much for Reader’s fans. Reader may have been an old dog, but it was still full of life, fetching the ball, and house-trained. By suddenly killing it, and offering up Keep soon after, it’s like Google shot your dog, but said it was okay because they bought you a puppy. You don’t want that puppy, you want your dog back. Then suddenly, it dawns on you — that dog was never yours. You didn’t buy that dog, you didn’t house, feed, care for, and pick up after that dog. You just showed up, petted it, played with it, and left. Which takes me back to the standards thing. You just watched Google kill its old dog so it could give us all a new puppy.
Does that sound like someone you want to pal around with?
Because they stopped making money.