Google is shutting down its Google Reader service on July 1, 2013, I recently learned. I have used Google Reader for all my RSS feeds for over a year, and have liked it far more than any other similar service that I have used. It works particularly well with an iPad app called Flipboard, which arranges posts in a style reminiscent of a newspaper. Apparently, Flipboard will allow its users to transfer Google Reader subscriptions directly to its service, to the gratitude of many users. I’m pretty sure Flipboard did not have to do that, just like Google does not have any obligation to keep Reader going. The reason for that is that I, and as far as I know everyone else in the world, do not pay for the Reader service, or for Flipboard.
As my friend Kevin said (or quoted), if you are not paying for a service that you are receiving, you are not the customer. You are the product.
Google has no obligation to continue offering a service that does not make it money, even if everyone loves it. Google makes money from its online services by selling advertising, just like nearly every other internet service that does not charge a fee directly to users. You, the user, are the recipient of that advertising. Google’s revenue is based on how it can monetize your online behavior. The company has an interest in keeping users happy, because it needs us to keep coming back to the site, or any other site plugged into Google (which is probably most of the world’s websites by now.) Its bigger concern, though, is keeping those advertising bucks coming in and keeping costs low. If a service costs enough that it impacts the acceptable profit margin, it goes. If you are not a Google shareholder or an actual customer, you ultimately have zero clout in influencing the decision to discontinue a service.
Google Reader is not an essential service for me, but rather a convenience. My life will not suffer for a lack of centralized RSS feeds in a handy newspaper-style format. At worst, I’ll have to get used to a different way of reading the news/blogs. The convenience offered by Google Reader/Flipboard is not something so important that I think it should be a public service. I do think that other services that benefit the public much more directly need to remain public, for the very reason that public service, not profit, should be the primary motivator. Prisons come to mind. So do roads and sewer mains.