Google Reader is dead. Are other free Web services next?

Google Reader, the widely used RSS reader, is all but dead. Google revealed that it would eliminate the service once July 1 rolls around. This has hit several of the service’s biggest fans hard. The truth, though, is that there are other choices. Google made a decision to close the service because its user base was steadily decreasing. Nonetheless the closure of Google Reader provides an important lesson to consumers: There’s no guarantee that your chosen, free cloud service won’t vanish, as well.

An ever-changing cloud

In an interesting story on Slate, writer Farhad Manjoo wrote about Google’s promotion of Reader when the company first launched it in 2005. In those days, Google talked about the RSS service as if it would be part of the Google universe forever. Consumers believed them, and quite a few embraced the service. Now, obviously, it is disappearing. And the takeaway? Consumers should never be shocked when one of their preferred free Web-based services does the same.

Disappearing services

This can be considered a downside to the cloud. In the days when software came on discs and we downloaded it to our computers, there was more permanence. Sure, companies would close shop and manufacturers would discontinue software. Nevertheless, you still had access to software, even when the companies behind it terminated it. After all, it was saved on your computer and you still had the discs. This isn’t the situation with the cloud. When something is yanked from the cloud, it’s gone.

Google’s challenge

Consumers aren’t the only ones facing challenging issues with the demise of Reader. Google does, too. As the Economist explains in a recent article, when Google introduces a new product, it expects consumers to flock to it. But why should consumers do that if there’s the possibility that Google will just get rid of the programs? Eliminating Reader may have made financial sense for Google. However, it may cause consumers to hesitate before embracing the company’s next cloud-based service.