On July 1 this year, Google Reader will cease to exist. Google cites the decline in userbase as the main reason why the service is shutting down, but turns out that those who do use Reader are a bunch of faithful, devoted folks who even launched a petition to keep it running. But if you ask former Google Reader product manager Brian Shih, declining userbase might not be the only reason why Google is axing the service – Google+ might also be to blame.
In Shih’s post on question-and-answer website Quora, he detailed his views on why Google+ could have contributed to the RSS reader’s demise. He prefaced the lengthy post by emphasizing that Reader has never made money directly, and Google certainly isn’t shutting it down because its (nonexistent) revenues can’t cover its operating costs. The first reason why he thinks Reader is shutting down partly due to Google+ is because the company has apparently been allocating personnel from the Reader team into other projects – mostly projects that had something to do with social – for years.
It began in 2008, when the company launched the OpenSocial project, which aimed to develop social Web applications that work on all platforms. In 2009, more engineers were recruited out of the Reader team to work on Buzz, it’s pre-Google+ social network that was killed off in 2011. Finally, even more people left the Reader team when Google+ was launched in 2010. “I suspect that [Google Reader] survived for some time after being put into maintenance, because they believed it could still be a useful source of content into G+,” Shih writes.
Devoted Reader users sift through a lot of content and share many of what they come across, which is why the company ultimately introduced integrated Google+ sharing, so people can +1 a story straight out of their RSS feeds. Google’s idea was sound – it was hoping that giving users the option to share content on Google+ would be an incentive for more people to actively use its young social network. Unfortunately, Shih believes the plan backfired and that sharing ultimately declined, which means Reader has outlived its usefulness. For a company that’s looking to dedicate its resources to its more successful products, the RSS reader’s death is nothing but inevitable.
Shih warns that he left Google in 2011, and all of these are merely speculations. Still, everything he said makes sense, so we have to ask – do you agree with Shih that Google+ has somehow contributed to Reader’s death?