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Google is learning some new lessons of late. Specifically, that the user base of a product doesn't map 1:1 to the impact that removing that product will have. In the case of Google Reader, the company's recent announcement that they'll be discontinuing the service in July first met with the usual round of "noooo! I use that!" from what few users the service still had after it was gutted to remove its social features and replace them with Google+.
That was probably no more or less than Google expected. But since then, there have been some interesting secondary effects:
- "Reader" has been one of the top-trending topics on Google+ since the announcement.
- New product announcements from Google are now being met with suspicion.
- Digg, a social news site, has announced that they'll build their own replacement.
- An existing competing service, Feedly, has seen over 500,000 new users in two days.
I doubt there's any going back, now. If Google saves Reader, they would have to dump resources into improving it or risk further backlash from an increased community of users. But the whole point of dumping Reader, according to Google, was to allow them to focus on fewer products.
But, even if Google doesn't save Reader, I think they need to learn from this lesson. A side note in a "spring cleaning" announcement is not how you announce the 4-month sunset of a beloved product. In the future, hopefully Google will prepare their users for transitions with more grace.