Google, of course, knows a lot about me, they know what I search for online, via Google Docs they know a lot about my interests, via my old Blogger site they have a record of my personal development for a couple of years, they know my friends and family via Android contacts and much more.
However, the announcement to close Google Reader has got me thinking that it is perhaps a sign of how a multinational, living in the era of ‘Big Data’, can struggle to engage with their users and thus fail them horribly. This failure is unlikely to impact hugely on Google’s bottom line (as savegooglereader.org has picked up they could get over a lot of the bad PR just by spinning it off into a different company) but enough failures, over a length of time, and they will start to notice loss of customers and that would, eventually, hit the bottom line. Google infamously has not supported users in the traditional sense, most services offering a Google Group or other limited form of a manual with the expectation being that by using search someone will have posted an answer to customer queries. Similarly, updates have been rather ad hoc and forced upon people (although Google Apps for Education and some other services have started to alert users better) and I do not remember ever seeing a traditional survey from Google.
Reader is perhaps the single most important website in my life – it aggregates some personal information (local news sites), entertainment (podcasts via RSS), and formal (journals) and more informal (blogs, etc) professional reading. There are also a host of notifications setup with Page2RSS. Sure I use Twitter to keep up with some things and LinkedIn and Facebook but only in the same way that I go directly to the BBC and Guardian. Virtually everything else is via RSS and Google Reader. If they needed to make money out of Reader they could have, adverts for additional journals and news sites would have been relatively easy to map out from my folders and the titles of read stories.
Personally I am holding off transferring away from Reader to see how the playing field levels out – not least as it is a clear opportunity for Microsoft to build something with a great W8 app, but also cross browser compatibility, to take on the crown of the champion of RSS. Indeed the live tile approach and RSS could merge quite nicely (and perhaps already does with some apps?) and Reader already works better in WP8 IE than it did on my old Android phone.
All in all, it is another reason to use Google products less often and as I posted previously they probably do not care but it means:
- Phone – I bought my Windows8 phone as something of an experiment but in many ways I prefer it over Android. I doubt I will go back, the UI is great and most things I need to do I can.
- Calendar – I have continued to use as WP8 very nicely allows you to import Android contacts and access Google and Yahoo services via the phone in unified interfaces – Microsoft playing ball with everyone else more than Google. Who’d have thought it!
- Docs – I still use Google Docs (sorry Drive) but things on my phone also go to Skydrive. Docs is really the only area Google has me locked in.
- Search – Google still often seems to trump Bing (on my phone) so I do not expect to switch from Google here but I could and I doubt it would make too much difference.
- Video – YouTube is still the first port of call but SlideShare and others are stepping up. Kudos to the YT team though for the improvements over subscriptions as I now visit daily to check what is new and use my ‘watch later’ list.
- RSS – lets wait and see what happens in the next month or so but by cutting off Reader at the very least Google pushes Audio users away to podcasts via iTunes.
- Google Alerts – I have a few of these setup, perhaps one G product to benefit in that it might gain some use away from Page2RSS and other alerts.
On previous blogs I have posted on my current tech usage – it will be interesting to reflect on what the GR changes mean in a few months time.