The Google problem

I’ve been waiting for this post from Ezra Klein. It follows another good one from James Fallows, to which Ezra refers.

Together, the Gmail experience, the death of Google Reader, and the closure of Picnik all have me questioning whether I want to keep investing time and energy in “free” Google products or whether I need to start looking for paid services that are explicitly making money off the thing I am paying them to do. And if more and more of the people who would be Google’s early adopters feel as I do, and as Fallows does, then that could become a problem for Google. [Emphasis added.]

This is precisely why I am optimistic about NewsBlur as a replacement for Google Reader. To get the fully functional version, you have to pay a fee. It’s not much, a few bucks a month, but it is enough for Samuel Clay, its founder, to make a living creating and maintaining a good product. Without such a revenue source, I would worry about its sustainability. I could say other nice things about NewsBlur, but I’m going to wait. Clay is working hard to scale it up and fix bugs after being slammed with demand in the wake of the Reader pull-out announcement. When I think it’s ready, I’ll tell you to give it a try.

Meanwhile, Google is retrenching toward its revenue-generating products. Those are not products that serve up ads, per se, but products they can sell to businesses. After all, if Gmail has ads — and it does — so could Reader. The difference is that Gmail is an enterprise app. So is Calendar. And Docs (or Drive). Those are products Google has a business reason to invest in and maintain. They can sell versions of them to companies for profit. Any product that can’t, in time, is at risk of being dumped. I no longer trust Google to do otherwise, which brings me to my tweet earlier today.


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