Unnamed sources told AllThingsD that Google is killing its Reader news aggregator over privacy-related costs. Reader was named as part of Google's most recent "spring cleaning" announcement, and is scheduled to go offline on July 1 despite the numerous petitions requesting that the service stay online.
According to the report, Google is trying to better orient itself so that it doesn't continue to get into trouble with "repeated missteps" around compliance issues, specifically privacy. That means every team now needs people -- including lawyers, policy experts and more -- dedicated to dealing with these very issues.
For Google Reader, there was no specific product manager or a full-time engineer in place when the closure was announced. Sources claim that Google simply didn't want to add the additional infrastructure and staff, but it also couldn't spin Reader off and sell it as a separate entity due to its deep integration with Google Apps. Thus, Google decided to kill the much-loved news reader instead.
Google's "repeated missteps" in recent years have included the whole Street View fiasco where the cars were scooping up personal data associated with home-based WiFi networks. The company was also recently busted by the FTC for bypassing security in Apple's Safari browser to install ad cookies tuned to the user.
Currently it's not known how Google would violate user privacy through Reader (subscription lists could be exposed?), but the closure of its news aggregator clearly shows that Google wasn't willing to invest time and money into making sure the service remained compliant. The over 150,000 users that have signed numerous petitions also clearly wasn't enough to keep the service rolling.
What's also unknown is how many people will be dispersed by the closing down of Reader. Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told AllThingsD that two million previous Google Reader users have signed on since the announcement. The userbase is also wide-spread, meaning it wasn't just used by tech junkies and gamers. The Google Reader audience includes mommy bloggers, manga readers, politics junkies, auto mechanics and more. The two million that Flipboard has gained probably just scratches the overall surface of Google Reader's userbase.
Nick Baum, one of the original Reader product managers who departed from Google in 2007, hinted that Google likely wasn't making enough ad-based revenue via Reader to keep the aggregator up and running. Back when he was still on the team, there were only "several millions" of weekly active users. Google also never included resources that would help users find new feeds and more.
"My sense is, if it’s a consumer product at Google that’s not making money, unless it’s going to get to 100 million users it’s not worth doing," he said.