Google Reader’s demise–a wake up call for cloud computing users?
Google Reader has been a part of my life for several years now, forming the basis of my news reading habits. Barely a day goes by that I don’t use it via my Android phone, iPad or the web and I have dozens of feeds effortlessly synced across all platforms. It is, along with Dropbox, one of the most useful cloud services I have signed up for…and now its gone.
I guess I shouldn’t complain too much–after all it is a free service just like Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Dropbox, Gmail, etc and so Google has every right to yank it away from me if that’s what they want to do. What the cloud giveth, the cloud taketh away and all that.
What if your favourite cloud-based service was switched off?
This has led me to face up to something I’ve always had at the back of my mind but, until now, never really worried about too much– I rely far too much on services that are potentially ephemeral and I have no control over. The loss of Google Reader from my life is frustrating but hardly the end of the world. The loss of something like Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook or Gmail would cause me a lot more pain.
The data I upload to these services may be mine but the platforms are not and since I don’t pay a penny for any of them (Dropbox being a major exception) I am not sure what my legal rights may be. If, for example, a company such as Evernote were to suddenly say ‘This free-access stuff isn’t working out for us so we deleted all your stuff and closed your account, thanks for playing.’, would I have any legal recourse? Even more importantly, would I have a local backup?
Longevity and owning your own platform.
Another issue to consider is longevity. Over the years I have invested time and money in dozens of software applications and, apart from a few notable exceptions where the licensing was crazy, I can still run any one of them today. Languishing in the depths of my hard drives are files so old that they can only be read by ancient applications written by long-dead software development companies yet I can still launch the application and access the data. I can do this because I physically own the platform. The only way someone could prevent me from using the software and data on this platform is to physically take it from me.
To prevent me from using a cloud based service, however, it seems that all it takes is for that service to become unpopular.