Google Reader’s demise–a wake up call for cloud computing users?

March 15th, 2013 | Categories: The internet | Tags:

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.

 

  1. March 15th, 2013 at 09:34
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Those are good and important points. I don’t think I’d have any legal recourse for loss of data in free clouds, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position where I have to try. So I religiously back up everything that resides in someone else’s cloud service. My Gmail accounts are forwarding to my local mail client, and I only started using Evernote because I can do a full local backup in an easily parsed XML format. There always must be an exit strategy if the data is at all important.

  2. March 15th, 2013 at 11:09
    Reply | Quote | #2

    My thoughts exactly – been pondering the same questions all day today. And I thought today I’d get pie. And now it’s the Ides of March…

    As a side note – until some smart startup figures out how to make money while you own your data – try Feedly.

  3. March 15th, 2013 at 12:50
    Reply | Quote | #3

    Feedly looks OK but I need my RSS reader clients to work with it. I’ve used Greader Pro (http://www.greader.co/) on Android for years and it’s fantastic. The developer is a great guy and is looking at alternatives to Google Reader in order to continue to provide his users with a good product. Best of all, he asked his users what we think:
    https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/g_reader/yLRzT1486701-25-false

    Feedly gets mentioned a lot but the product that caught my eye was Tiny Tiny RSS http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki which I could run on my own server. This would mean I’d own the platform which would make me very happy.

  4. Good point, Mike!

    For other reasons than this I am migrating Dropbox, gmail, agenda, evernote etc to my own cloud for both private and business. The software I am using for this is OwnCloud, which will have server-side encryption next month (for me very important).

  5. March 15th, 2013 at 13:44
    Reply | Quote | #5

    Very good points! I went heavily down the Evernote path about a year and a half ago, but only after I verified that I could easily export all of my notes, including attachments, to an XML file readable by me or other applications. I have an every-two-months to-do item that reminds me to update my Evernote backup file (which, in turn, is backed up via Mozy).

  6. Bob Alvarez
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:43
    Reply | Quote | #6

    This post and the reference in the Windows batch file post to the StackOverFlow moderation policy got me to thinking about the disappearance of useful online references. I have had sites with a lot of useful information disappear on me. I think it makes sense to download the useful pages to my local disk drive. With multi-terabyte disks and Windows 7 desktop search, this information is readily available to me in the future.

    I was thinking about writing a batch file to save pages but I found that opening the pages in multiple tabs in Firefox, and then saving all the tabs with the unMHT add-on is fast and convenient. I saved the ‘Hidden features of python’ post as 7 files on my disk. As an added benefit, the post has directory in the first response to the rest of the topics and the unMHT software seems to have adjusted the links to the saved copies on my computer!

  7. Janis Griezejs
    April 13th, 2013 at 20:47
    Reply | Quote | #7

    As a RSS reader I’ve been long using FeedDemon, works well, but sychronizes with Google reader. I wander what will happen with it if the reader service will get switched off.

    As to the personal data if one wants to maintain a safe personal data repository and wants to maintain his own server. Option is look into Lotus Notes 9 social edition. Their “per user” licencing is really cost effective currently. Client licence includes a server licence too. An there is a feed reader built in too. Not as convenient as Feed demon though.

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