A decision by Google to close its popular Reader, which allowed users to easily follow updates from around the web, has sparked a storm of criticism by devoted fans of the service.
Google announced the move late on Wednesday as part of a “spring-cleaning” strategy pushed by founder and chief executive Larry Page to cull non-essential projects at the web software giant.
The company announced a shake up of its top ranks on Wednesday with Android chief Andy Rubin stepping aside in favour of Sundar Pichai, boss of the company’s Chrome browser and operating system. Google broke up its mapping and commerce unit, with executive Jeff Huber moving to research division Google X, which is working on projects like Google Glass and the company’s self-driving cars.
Urs Holze, senior vice-president of technical infrastructure, said the decision was made to close down Google Reader because it had been steadily losing users over the years as people switched to Facebook and Twitter to keep track of web updates.
“It’s been a long time since we have had this rate of change — it probably hasn’t happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago,” he wrote. “To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus - otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact.” Within hours of the announcement, online petitions calling on Google to reverse the decision had attracted thousands of signatures, including one on online petition site that had been signed by more than 63,000 people by midday Thursday.
“Our confidence in Google’s other products - Gmail, YouTube, and yes, even Plus - requires that we trust you,” wrote petition organizer Dan Lewis. “This is about us using your product because we love it, because it makes our lives better, and because we trust you not to nuke it.” Users took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
“Google’s shutdown of #Reader is a painful but important reminder of how much time we invest into platforms we neither own nor control,” said one user.