As Duncan reported earlier Google is shutting down; or removing any active upkeep and development, from a slew of services that they had paid out millions for. The reason why – money. The problem is that it is services like Jaiku, Notebook and Google Video that the company was using as part of their whole webification of our our world. Sure YouTube is a more popular product than Google Video but that doesn’t change the fact that these are all services that at some point people have entrusted their workflow to along with their data. Like everything else though when the money gets tight if something isn’t making a company money it’s time to shut the doors on it – that’s just Business 101.
Steve Rubel just raised an interesting point in a new post – could GReader be next on the chopping block at Google. After all like he points out GReader still hasn’t been able to be monetized in any serious fashion. As well, while in the Web 2.0 and social media world everyone might be deeply in love with the product the rest of the real mainstream world on the web still hasn’t gotten RSS feeds.
Enter Google Reader, one of my favorite products and by far the best RSS reader on the market. However, Google Reader is completely un-monetized. Further, RSS adoption aint exactly a robust growth market. It’s still for geeks. So I wonder if the economic storm intensifies what Reader’s future is. My bet is that they will either shut it down, cease development or start to monetize it the way they are doing with Google Finance. More likely it’s the latter. Even Google Maps now has ads.
If Google chooses to run ads in Google Reader, that creates an issue. Lots of publishers run ads in their feeds. If Google is competing against these with its own contextual ads in in Reader then what? It might just be easier for them to shut it down. Thank God for OPML exporting.
What does this portend for the rest of all those companies out there scratching for attention and users for their services. After all VC money will only go so far especially in these economic times regardless how some of the venture capital companies might want to spin it. So at what point do the users out there realize that these companies are starting to drop like flies taking all of our time invested in them along with our data right down the flick of a server switch.
What we could very well be seeing here is the very beginning of the snowball rolling down the hill. It might be starting out small with only a few companies; or existing services that are cash sink holes, getting shuttered. Unfortunately though with each one that disappears consumer willingness to expend any more time on exist services will decline. For new services starting out it will be even harder because they have the double whammy of the economy and consumer reluctance to deal with.
Personally I have been reluctant from the beginning to move my workflow to the web mainly because of things like this. One minute you might be using some service as part of your workflow and the next minute – Whoosh – it’s gone; usually with nothing more than a week or two notice on a blog somewhere that no-one probably reads. I may have gotten laughed at in the past whenever I questioned the long term viability of trusting our workflow to the web but over the next year I don’t think those people will be laughing quite as hard.