Google Reader & Free Services

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few hours you’re probably aware that Google has announced that they are killing Google Reader effectively July 1st. This inevitably led to tidal wave of The Usual Suspects™ parroting the hoary cliché “that’s what you get for using a free service.” While it is unquestionably true that the users of free services have little to no recourse when a company decides that maintaining a service is no longer contributing to their bottom line, the sentiment is also sort of stupid.

The implication of “don’t use free services” is that paid services are somehow better. I wonder what sort of candy-land universe these pundits live in where paid-for services are never discontinued. Perhaps they should ask the former users of the (paid) email app Sparrow how that works.

The real takeaway from the shut-down of Google Reader is not that free services suck—-or that paid services are magically better—-it’s that users should always have a backup plan for products and services that they find essential. The takeaway for developers of products that rely on 3rd party services is that they should never become complacent. They should always have a plan for maintaining their product after a 3rd party service goes tits up. That applies to all services: Google, Apple, Dropbox—-even everyone’s darling App.net.