Google Reader is dead. Are other free Web services next?

Google Reader is dead. Are other free Web services next?

<p>Are you mourning the reported death of Google Reader? If that's the case, you&rsquo;re not alone. Google just recently announced that it is killing off its RSS reader on July 1. The reason behind Google&rsquo;s decision makes sense: Reader was losing users. It was not an expanding service. Nonetheless, the death of Reader presents some interesting questions, both for consumers and Google. The main one? What&rsquo;s to keep Google and others from discontinuing other cloud-based services? The answer? Absolutely nothing.</p> <p><strong>The impermanence of the cloud</strong></p> <p>The world of the cloud is an ever-changing one. Providers add new products. They also pull those that aren&rsquo;t performing well. That&rsquo;s what happened with Google Reader. It&rsquo;s something that Farhad Manjoo, a writer with Slate, says that consumers should be expecting to see more often. Nothing that lives in the cloud is assured everlasting life, Manjoo writes. Google promoted Reader as though it was going to be a permanent part of the company. But that obviously isn&rsquo;t the case. So be warned, Manjoo writes, there&rsquo;s no guarantee that your other favorite cloud software will live forever, either.</p> <p><strong>Disappearing services</strong></p> <p>As Manjoo writes, Reader's death highlights one of the primary downsides of cloud-based software: It could be highly impermanent. You will never know if your preferred service will disappear. Needless to say, back in the days before the cloud became so popular, all of us had favorite word-processing systems, spreadsheet programs and game series that manufacturers suddenly discontinued. But you could still access those programs on your own discs. With cloud services, though, that's not the case. When they're gone, they're gone, as fans of Reader will soon learn.</p> <p><strong>Issues for Google</strong></p> <p>The death of Reader isn&rsquo;t just bad news for fans of the RSS service. It&rsquo;s also a challenge for Google, as the Economist magazine argues in a recent story. No one can expect Google to continue funding under-performing products. Nonetheless, how will consumers react the next time Google unveils a cloud-based product? Are they going to flock to it? Or are they going to pause, wondering when Google might kill it off? The demise of Reader may seem like a small matter to a company as powerful as Google. Nonetheless the RSS service&rsquo;s end might post some tricky challenges for Google down the road.</p>