When Google announced Wednesday night that it was shutting down its Reader product, it was met with a reaction that wasn’t just furious, but personal. Many angered Reader-ites took to Twitter, looking for some outlet to express their anger, with some shouting “Save Our Reader!” in the hopes Google would hear their cries and keep their product alive.
Within the root of that protest, however, lies the very problem. Google Reader was never anyone’s Reader but Google’s and, by virtue of ownership, Google was always free to do with it what it wanted. On Wednesday night, the company announced plans that made that fact painfully clear and, being that Google evidently weighed the decision beforehand, it is unlikely that any protest, no matter how long it trends on Twitter, will get Google to change its mind. Google Reader, for all intents and purposes, is dead.
The death of Google Reader reveals a problem of the modern Internet that many of us likely have in the back of our heads but are afraid to let surface: We are all participants in a user driven Internet, but we are still just the users, nothing more. No matter how much work we put in to optimize our online presences, our tools and our experiences, we are still at the mercy of big companies controlling the platforms we operate on. When they don’t like what’s happening, even if we do, they can make whatever call they want. And Wednesday night, Google made theirs.