Replacing Google Reader
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 March 2013, 9:18 am
Google today announced that they would shut down their Google Reader service this summer. As an immediate reaction I signed up with Feedly, who are offering a seamless transition. Problem solved? Well, I think the event should give us food for thought.

Google Reader is just one of many free services we use on the internet. Google has a lot of other of those free services, from their search engine to Blogger/Blogspot where this blog is running. But they are not the only ones, millions of people use Facebook and Twitter every day. And because we use these services, we feel some sort of entitlement to them. But the harsh reality is that if you are using a free product on the internet, you are not a customer, you are the product. Any of these services can be shut down any day, either because the company running the service decided it wasn't profitable enough, or because the company went bankrupt.

In terms of our virtual lives, that is a rather scary thought. The very existence of "Tobold" as a presence on the internet depends to 99% on Google. If they would shut down Blogger/Blogspot and GMail, "Tobold" would pretty much cease to exist. Sure, I could open up a blog elsewhere using the same name, but I would have lost my network, and thus my pagerank, so the new blog would be very hard to find.

And there is nothing I can do about it, except for the rather paradoxical solution of not using the free services in the first place for fear of losing them. I have no legal contract with any of these service providers that would force them to continue offering their service to me. The only advantage I have is my experience with MMORPGs or other online games which I played and which shut down: Lose your in-game social network a couple of times like that, and you are at least aware of the possibility of losing other social networks when the service shuts down.
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