If the Google Reader shutdown has proved anything, it’s that Google is not indispensable

google garbage - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereWhen Google announced that Google Reader is going to be shut down in a few months, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I, like others, have been using it for years, and haven’t really ever looked for an alternative. However, it didn’t take long until lists of alternatives started popping up, and I went ahead and tried a service suggested by reader Dstroya in a comment: Feedly. It took me all of two minutes to realize that Google Reader has been holding me back from finding alternatives that are much better than Google’s outdated service.

I haven’t logged into Google Reader since that day, and been using Feedly on my computer and iPad. Zite, a news discovery app I use on the iPad, has also announced that it is taking steps to replace Google Reader for its users, which means that I’m up to two replacement services that all offer benefits that Google doesn”t.

Seeing how Google Reader’s demise has paved the way for better third party alternatives, I can’t help to wonder what other hidden gems are out there. Is Gmail just as outdated as Google Reader? What about Google Calendar? I use and love both those services, but there might just be something to the saying that love is blind.

Of course, it should be noted that the fact that Google Reader is going away has helped these third party services to shine, and that it’s harder to make a competitive service to something that Google still runs. Feedly’s recently announced Normandy back end, for instance, is trying to capitalize on the part of Google Reader that acted as a feed library for other services. The sad truth is that way too many services use Google’s products to sync information and link accounts, so that even when I go to find my home computer via Jump Desktop on my iPad, I need to sign in with my Google ID to link the two.

This makes it very hard to escape from the Google eco system altogether, because you keep getting pulled back in by the fact that Google is like Facebook when it comes to acting as a support system for otherwise unrelated services. I don’t use Facebook, and I find it increasingly difficult to stay away from that horrible service as more and more services ask me to log in with a Facebook ID. Now I’m starting to feel like Google is the exact same way.

I think it’s a very scary situation we’ve gotten ourselves into, where we’ve allowed certain huge companies to have a foot in every door we ever use, even those that would normally have nothing to do with them. It’s so tempting to use Google to identify a user, because then you have a user account system that many people already use. It’s so easy to make the comment section of a site tie in with Facebook, because then you instantly have registered users in almost every home. And, it’s so easy to make apps that are mere clients to Google Reader, instead of building something from the ground up.

And then the companies that control a vital part of your service decides it can’t be bothered doing it anymore.

I’ve personally learned a lesson from the shutdown of Google Reader. Google will do whatever it pleases, and that means I can’t trust it. I’ve also learned that Google isn’t indispensable, and that’s a realization I don’t think Google was expecting users to get from a simple shutdown of Google Reader. I’m not jumping ship from any other Google services right away, but for the first time since I signed up for Gmail, I’m actively keeping an eye out for alternatives.

Thanks, Google, for making me realize how replaceable you are.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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