Google has had and then killed a number of extremely useful research tools for journalists, and Reader is just the latest. Search Timeline, which showed the frequency of a search term, was flawed but still extremely useful for research as a journalist. For journalists working with social media, the death of Realtime, Google’s social media search, was a terrible loss. No other tool has come even close to the functionality that Realtime offered. Topsy comes the closest, but it still lacks the incredible features that Realtime offered.
Kevin identifies the wider problem with how Google is evolving. The experimental, geeky, web-loving company many of us had a small crush on five years ago is, essentially, gone. Google is growing up and is leaving many of its early users behind. Google’s product base is becoming relentlessly mainstream – if there’s a potentially large audience for a product, then it’s safe. Niche and minority interest tools? They’re on the chopping block.
The days of us information specialists relying on free tools to get our work done are pretty much over, I think. As increasing numbers of free services are “acqui-hired” into closure, or just plain shut down by corporates with no vested interest in keeping them going -or in keeping their users happy – I’m more comfortable with using tools from specialist providers who allow me to be a customer, rather than a user. I’m a freelance consultant these days, and my little daughter’s future relies on me doing good work, reliably. That means I need tools I can rely on – and I’m willing to pay for them. My note-taking lives in Evernote – where I have a paid account. My files are in either Dropbox – paid account – or iCloud – again, a paid account.
My rule of thumb: if there’s any long-term use of a service that matters to me, I’d rather use a paid service from a specialist company.
So, I’m happy to use Google Drive for short term collaboration and sharing – but I’m not storing anything there in the long term.
The free tool internet was fun while it lasted – but it’s over.