When I opened up my window to cyberspace this morning, the news was all over the web : Google announced the termination of Google Reader starting June 1st. This extremely handy service that has been a major source of information and content filtering for me over the last couple of years , is about to return a ‘404 not found’ page when summer rolls along. Suggestions for alternatives are abundant and possible “replacements” for Google Reader see their servers crumbling because of the massive exodus off yet another Google product that is sinking. As I fret to find out a way to sustain my automated information scripts .. I fearfully glance towards Feedburner and their single basket holding all my podcast feeds (and the only link to my subscribers). As cries of outrage (in the form of animated gif images) fill the web .. the sets in : The cloud fairy tale has no “happily ever after”.
After the collapse of the web 2.0 bubble and the zillions of startups that had no sustainable business model (aside from burning venture capital) we thought that “The Cloud” had come of age. Surely the big players like Microsoft and Google with their countless free services would be a “Safe bet” for our internet needs ? So we laughed at the nerds who ran their own mail servers. We scuffed our local ISP’s with their POP3 accounts and shoved our entire digital communication stream towards Yahoo, Microsoft or Google. As these giants lured us in with extra services and functionality .. that “webmail” account soon started to become a part of an ever growing ecosystem in which we entrusted our data and our workflows. Pretty soon “Sign up here” became the surrogate for “install now” and we watched our laptops turn into nothing more then pimped out Thin Clients. Office in the cloud, Mail in the cloud, Storage in the Cloud, Backups in the Cloud.. everything was possible and we thought it would last forever.
But there is no such thing as happily ever after.
As a cross platform slider who moves from OS to OS (and from device to device) the cloud was a great solution. The downside is that it is not one that is going to last forever. Somewhere, cloud based solutions from big players got the status of being eternal, but they are not. Google Reader brings another name to the list of soon to be terminated services, Hotmail and MSN Messenger being other A-listers here. As we signed up to yet another free service we boldly shouted : ‘If they ever make us pay .. we will leave’. Today I hear people offer cold hard cash to keep their Google Reader (or IGoogle service) alive.
So not every fairy tale has a happy ending and you don’t always get a chance to pay. Sometimes free services don’t stop becoming free, they stop becoming anything. Think about it next time you sign up for an online backup server to house the pictures of your newborn, or as you drag your tax papers onto Dropbox. Will they still be there tomorrow, and if not .. where can YOU go ?
Thus we dig frantically through our mailbox for the address of that geek who runs his own mail server , we hope its not too late to ask him if he ever built an RSS Reader on his own machine. For as this grey cloud crawls across the sky .. we know Google Reader isn’t going to be in it much longer.