Strong opinions, weakly held

Google Reader pays the strategy tax

In 2001, Dave Winer wrote about the strategy tax:

Ben explained that sometimes products developed inside a company such as Microsoft have to accept constraints that go against competitiveness, or might displease users, in order to further the cause of another product. I recognized the concept but had never heard the term.

Google is retiring all of the social features in Google Reader in order to push users to Google Plus instead. Discontinuing these features is bad — I find that people use them very effectively to share interesting stuff and would argue that the shared links from my Google Reader friends are generally more interesting than any single blog that I read. Even worse, Google is going to delete everyone’s past shared links in a few days. So people who have been using link sharing as a sort of blog will soon see their entire archive deleted.

Why? In order to prop up Google Plus. I wouldn’t argue that the strategy tax is never worth paying, but I would say that it’s higher than most companies realize. The good news for Google is that there’s not much competition in the news reader space any more, so it’s not like Google Reader users are going to rush off to use some other product as a result.

Update: I can’t find confirmation that archived shared links will be deleted and I don’t want to be a rumor monger. Hopefully I was just wrong about that.

Update: Courtney Stanton explains the value of Google Reader’s social features. (via Andy Baio) After reading it I realize that I wasn’t really taking advantage of Google Reader.


  1. They’re going to delete all past shares? That sounds completely contradictory to their statement that they’re going to make it possible to export all of that data so that you can use it to move to some other service if you so desire.

  2. I read somewhere that old shares were going to be deleted soon, but maybe that was a rumor or they’ve changed their mind or maybe I just misread something. Hopefully the archives will not be deleted anytime soon.

  3. According to the Google Reader announcement it looks like they’ll be expanding subscription export to include shared items, among other things: http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2011/10/upcoming-changes-to-reader-new-look-new.html

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