Blindly Drinking the Kool-Aid

Peter Matthaei has penned a response to my post about the Reader shut down. I wanted to dissect his argument a bit, because it is very much on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from my argument.

Matthaei:

The truth is, user-RSS is slowly dying. While I, and many of my friends, are true info-addicts who love the river-of-information approach of cross-device synchronised RSS feeds, news consumption is shifting to apps like Flipboard and Zite, and powered and filtered by social sharing.

I’d ask for the proof here. Where are the numbers, the graph, that shows that RSS is dwindling? Daring Fireball boasts “over 400,000” RSS readers — and that’s a number that hasn’t changed in a while, but also a number that has never decreased. This site’s non-paid RSS readership still grows every month.

Is RSS a nerd tool? Yes.

Does that mean that its growth is stagnant by default? No.

Let’s get some proof to back up the claim that RSS usage is almost dead.

It’s not about free versus paid, and how that fits or doesn’t fit with Google’s business model. It’s about the reality that even if (or especially if) a company has tens of thousands of employees, it needs to focus on where the puck is going.

I agree, but that’s not the whole picture.

The reason Google is shutting Reader down is the same reason Apple is slowly but surely sunsetting the Mac Pro range. (And Mac Pros are priced, if I may remind Ben, at the extreme opposite of free.)

What the fuck? We are now going to make the leap from RSS to desktop computing? We have concrete proof that desktop computing is a decreasing business from a multitude of sources. Further, you simply cannot equate one with the other. You buy a Mac Pro because you need one for work, you use RSS because you want to keep up with sites you like.

Apple is ignoring the Mac Pro (which is still sold, mind you) because despite charging for it, the profit potential isn’t there. Google is shutting down Reader instead of even trying to charge for it — maybe it would break even, or make some money if they stopped ignoring it — who knows.

Contrary to Ben’s argument, Google isn’t just willy-nilly dabbling in Maps and keeping it alive for free because it can do so because of a formidable user base. Google maintains and grows Maps because it directly and tightly fits into Google’s re-invigorated mission of improving people’s lives through relevant information.

My point wasn’t that Google Maps just has a large user base, but that it is a strategic tool that also, wait for it, shows you ads. Huh, they make money off of Maps from Ads and aren’t considering shutting it down — imagine that.

So if Glass is Google’s unified vision of the future, there really isn’t a place for an antiquated service like an RSS reader in Google’s ecosystem. […] And as anybody who has worked at a company with more than a hundred employees can attest: it’s not about how many developers you can spare working on cool but ultimately doomed side-projects but how well the entire company is pulling towards one concrete vision of the future.

Not true. As anybody who has ever run a company can attest it’s not about what you do, but how much money you make doing it. Let’s not forget that Google is publicly traded and has a fiduciary duty to the shareholders to make money. Giving away Reader for free didn’t work, vision or no vision and instead of trying to make it a profit center Google shit-canned it.

If Reader made money, or just broke even, then there’d be no reason to get rid of Reader — again, vision or no vision.

Srsly ppl, the whole cynical “Google cares about nothing but serving you ads” meme amongst sections of the tech elite is starting to wear thin.

The sad fact is that the evidence points to the fact that showing Ads is what Google cares about, the proof to the contrary simply isn’t compelling and is sparse.

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
4 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Peter Matthaei has penned a response to my post about the Reader shut down. I wanted to dissect his argument a bit, because it is very much on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from my argument. Matthaei: The truth is, user-RSS is slowly dying. While I, and many of my friends, are true […]