By Doug Gross
(CNN) — Google Reader, one of the best-known feeds through which users can pull together their favorite Web content in one place, will be shutting down, the company announced.
In an age of Facebook posts and retweets, Google Senior Vice President Urs Holzle said in a post on the official Google blog that Reader was losing popularity.
“While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined,” Holzle wrote.
Reader will be shut down on July 1. Users wanting to port their content to another RSS (rich site summary) feed can use Google Takeout to move it over the next four months.
The move is part of a massive “spring cleaning” that Google began in 2011 and which has nuked about 70 of its wide array of products. The point is focus in a time when mobile technology is dramatically and quickly changing the computing world, said Holzle.
“It’s been a long time since we have had this rate of change — it probably hasn’t happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago,” he wrote. “To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus — otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact.
Among the 40 shutdowns announced Wednesday also were the Google Voice app for BlackBerry, the desktop version of photo app Snapseed, Google Cloud Connect and Google Building Maker, which lets users create models of buildings on Google Earth and Google Maps.
Released in 2005, Google Reader was begun four years earlier as a project called JavaCollect by independent software engineer Chris Wetherell. After joining Google, he worked with a team to perfect and enhance it.
“We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go,” said software engineer Alan Green on the Google Reader blog. “We’re sad too.”
Reader, and RSS feeds in general, remain popular with active, Web-savvy users who rely upon them to pull together the best of the Internet in one easy-to-read stream. But they never caught on among more casual users content to visit their favorite sites or rely on friends on social media to share interesting posts.
The feeds are also difficult to make money from, and Google never tried to place ads on Reader or charge for its use.
Indeed. Within hours of the announcement, several online petitions to save the service had gotten thousands of signatures. On petition site Change.org, more than 46,000 people had signed the petition “Google: Keep Google Reader Running.”
“Our confidence in Google’s other products — Gmail, YouTube, and yes, even Plus — requires that we trust you in respecting how and why we use your other products,” wrote Dan Lewis, of New York City, who created the petition. “This isn’t just about our data in Reader. This is about us using your product because we love it, because it makes our lives better, and because we trust you not to nuke it.”
There are several alternatives for Reader users, some of which have sprung up recently. Feedly and Pulse offer Web-based RSS feeds that also have mobile apps for Apple’s iOS and Android.
Zite (which is owned by CNN) lets users create a feed based on their interests then refine the feed by voting content up or down. It uses Google Reader info to help select content. Rival Flipboard allows users to directly import their Google Reader content, a point they expressly made in a post Thursday.
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