As I’ve mentioned in other rants, I speak to many groups on the topic of managing information while on the go and using multiple devices to do it. While each person needs to figure out the process that works best for them, almost everyone now depends on interconnected services and applications that can sync to some kind of storage in the now-legendary cloud.
It turns out those web-based services are not yet to the point of being completely dependable. Case in point, back in March Google pretty much lopped off one of the cornerstones of the information management process I use and advocate when they announced the shutting down of Reader, their service that is the "cloud" behind (above?) many, if not most, RSS aggregator applications. Which means that millions of us who depended on Reader (plus more than a few software publishers) are looking for alternatives before July 1.
Last week my process potentially took another hit when the developer of Instapaper, another application I depend on every day, posted that he was selling the popular read-later service. Considering how many small web/app companies have disappeared lately because their new owners wanted the people and technologies* but not the product, I had reason to be concerned.
However, there’s a big difference between this announcement and Google’s. Instapaper’s owner was very up front and transparent about the sale. Between posts to his blog and discussions on several podcasts, he made it clear that his first concern was for the users of the service. A core part of the deal was that the development of Instapaper continue.
It remains to be seen if everyone involved follows through on this plan, but this situation illustrates the big difference between Google and this individual developer (other than one is an 800 pound gorilla).
Google’s business is selling advertising and it’s users (and the data they generate) are the product being sold. The shutdown of Reader is one more sign that leaders of the company have decided anything not generating revenue must be changed or deleted.
Maybe not something to worry about but certainly something to consider before you begin to rely on a product, service, or app (from Google or any other company) that may disappear on short notice.
*One of the latest examples is Posterous, a simple blogging site that was bought by Twitter in 2012 and shut down a few days ago.