Fans braced for Google Reader's demise flock to new services

Larry Page Google chief executive Larry Page has said he wanted the company to focus on fewer products

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Millions of users of Google's Reader service are preparing for its closure, with many still angered at the search giant's decision.

Google announced in March that it would shut down the RSS reader, blaming a decline in use.

The company admitted that Reader had a "loyal following", and gave instructions for exporting feeds.

Other web companies are now clamouring to gain "Google Reader orphans" when the service finally closes on Monday.

RSS readers are tools which allow users to quickly see updates from their favourite websites.

Using RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, users can see when content is updated without having to visit each site individually.

Much like an email inbox, RSS readers indicate the number of unread updates for a user to read.

Google Reader is among the most popular tools for viewing RSS feeds.

In a blog post, Google software engineer Alan Green said: "Usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products.

Google's graveyard

Google Buzz logo

Google Reader certainly is not the first service to get the chop from the California company. In fact, Google regularly trims its product portfolio. Here are some stand out examples of what did not make the cut:

  • Google Wave (2009-2012) - Launched with much fanfare, this project management application failed to get people enthused, mainly because no-one knew what to use it for.
  • Google Video (2005-2012) - Intended as some kind of YouTube competitor, Google Video's mediocre performance quickly made it clear that it would be far easier for Google to just buy YouTube - which it promptly did in 2006.
  • Google Buzz (2010-2011) - A precursor to social network Google+, Google Buzz was clunkily integrated with Google Mail. It was hammered by users - and authorities - for not taking privacy seriously enough.
  • Google Labs (2002-2011) - In a surprising move that shocked many developers, Google closed its Labs service, which had acted as a testing ground for new ideas Google staff members had been working on.

"We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience."

After the announcement was made, Google offered instructions for how users can export their RSS feeds into an alternative service.

'Grave mistake'

The decision to close the service has riled large numbers of people, many of whom have said alternative services do not offer the same level of functionality.

PC Magazine called the decision "a grave mistake by Google and it sends the wrong message". US magazine Slate posted a virtual graveyard of closed Google products, and invited readers to leave their virtual condolences.

Others, however, said social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were fast changing the way people discover updates from their favourite sites, and therefore RSS readers were becoming increasingly old-fashioned and unnecessary.

Nevertheless, Google Reader's closure potentially paves way for rival services to scoop up millions of new users almost overnight.

Digg, the social recommendation news site, said it had been planning to build its own reader for some time, but it ramped up efforts upon news of Google Reader's closure.

"As daily (hourly) users of Google Reader, we're convinced that it's a product worth saving," wrote Digg's Andrew McLaughlin.

"We hope to identify and rebuild the best of Google Reader's features (including its API), but also advance them to fit the internet of 2013."

Another service tipped to gain a lot of users is Feedly, which has said that it gained more than three million news users in the two weeks following Google's announcement regarding Reader.

The company wrote: "A lot of undecided Google Reader users are looking for a home."

There has also been rumours that Facebook is planning to launch its own reader - but it is not being touted as a Google Reader replacement.

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