It’s inevitable. I copied all of my RSS feeds into Google Reader last weekend; Google retired the service today. The announcement is typically horrible corporate doublespeak: “As a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.” I’m not sure how they reason that eliminating the service enhances my experience unless it was somehow horrible to begin with.
I’m still in a running exchange with Delta over similar foolishness after I spent two hours trying to (unsuccessfully) book a flight through their website and agents. First they condescended that they understand how people can be confused by computers, then that they were confused by bad weather long the Eastern seaboard. None of which addresses the actual error logs that I sent to them.
Why can’t tech companies hire someone who can talk with, empathize with, their customers?
Back to Google.
Google promises to export feeds, and various sites are promoting to offer seamless imports into their products. Freely is in a particularly unseemly haste to get users to post admiring comments everywhere. For desktop, I still like NetVibes, and for tablet, gReader (unfortunately named, but actually independent of Google). gReader has a nice magazine-style interface and is working to eliminate their dependence on Google.
CNET is recommending FlipBoard or Currents, both good, but neither are RSS aggregators. Instead they are pushing a mix of pay magazines, newspapers, and sponsored feeds. It would be sad if ‘choose your eatery’ from the universe of establishments was replaced b constrained tools that only allow choice from a single buffet.
The broader point, also made over at Forbes, is that the Cloud does not belong to users. We are constantly being urged to move photos, data, applications, backups to the cloud rather than to local alternatives (USB disk drives are my favorite: a terebyte of space for less than $100). At its limit, the “Chromebook model” holds that a computer should only need a high-res touchscreen, a fast processor, and a high-speed internet connection.
I’ve had cloud services shut down five times this year, taking down websites, photos, links, and contacts. I create backups if I’m notified, but there is time and effort involved with re-establishing the service elsewhere.
I hate to be cynical, but these services exist to mine your data and link you to advertisers If they can’t do that successfully, you’re toast.
One last note: I’m still trying to buy a local data-only chip. O2 and Virgin don’t offer one; T-Mobile does. However, unless you have a bank account linked to a UK address, they can’t sell it to you (my Barclays account with a Dutch address doesn’t qualify). I can’t decide if this is an anti-laundering or anti-terrorism policy, but it is an absolute block.