You know what would suck? If Flickr just shut down one day, without warning, and suddenly you lost all your photos you had posted. You typed Flickr.com in your browser and what came up was a “Thanks for the good times!” message and an explanation that Flickr was no more. That would be terrible. But it probably wouldn’t be so bad if Flickr told you they were going to shut down months ahead of time, and then let you export your photos in several standards-based formats, right? And then what if a bunch of Flickr replacements popped up and offered one-click migration of all your photos to their platform? That would be pretty nice, right? And what if some of these new sites seemed to be better designed and have some unique features that were pretty cool, and now that you think about it, nothing new had really come out at Flickr in years.
You might see where I’m going with this. The good scenario is what just happened with Google Reader. And yet many are claiming that Google has done wrong.
Outside of some “companies should never drop products or features or make other long-term strategic choices even though long-term strategic choices are at least a third of what any company that wants to survive in a competitive environment must do” completely impractical view of the world, I don’t know how you can argue that there’s anything problematic about Google Reader’s shutdown outside of it being personally upsetting or annoying to you.
Let’s review what Google did:
- Warned both users and developers months in advance of the shutdown.
- Provided multiple export formats, including standards-based formats.
- Provided an API for programmatic export/import by competing platforms.
What more do you want here? Seriously, outside of Google basing their long-term product decisions off of your personal whims what are you looking for?
We should be celebrating the way Google handled this. We should hold this up as a model for all other tech companies to look to when “sunsetting” their products. Let’s not get it backwards: with the Reader shutdown, Google has done right.