Google Reader was a social network too

Though user numbers are apparently low, it doesn't take an expert to work out that in Reader, Google is annoying a diverse and vocal group of people.

Those that read and comment on a lot of blogs almost certainly use Google Reader (it became the market leader a long time ago) These people are the backbone of the internet as we know it today. They read and consume the 'user generated content' that we all hear so much about. They are the holy grail for marketers too.

So Google has upset an articulate, committed group of internet junkies - and is cutting them off from a network of peers, and maybe even friends. Yes, there are alternatives, I know. And it was free. But it's still possible to be annoyed about it. Blogging can be extremely personal.

When you write a blog, you don't - or shouldn't exist in isolation. You write for a group of like-minded individuals. You are part of a community.

And that community lives in the comments underneath each post, the 'blogroll' links and yes - within your RSS reader. This blog isn't always linked to your 'real-life' profiles or Twitter account. Some of the best blogs are anonymous.

Three years ago, I started a blog, I was getting married and I wrote about it. I made friends, I moved to a new city. The blog, and the communityI had plugged into was there - and provided a real-life network of support. As a blogger, Reader was invaluable in keeping this network together for me.

So my experience was very personal. But the lesson applies more widely. What I wrote about was initially based around what we're now calling, the 'interest graph' - in this case, the interest was trying to plan a wedding while remaining sane. It existed within a large pool of sites around this idea that could only be made sense of via aggregation.

What Google Reader generated was a different kind of social network. One based on wide-ranging content and connections with like minded people that crucially, hadnothing to do with my existing networks.

Now I use Reader in a less participative way - but it still outshines Twitter as a self-curated news and opinion funnel. But Google has cut this network, and this type of use, out of its offering.

Without decent RSS readers, there is no way to access, or self-curate this social network. Tumblr is a closed loop. Twitter is a noisy room. Facebook is where my friends are - and when you're blogging, it's not generally your friends that you want to reach.

Google Reader was a quiet library reading room. A nice place to retire to for a think and to plan. And if we're talking marketing - a place where I spent a lot of time with the Google brand. Now it's gone, and I'm off to see if old faithful FeedDemon will have me back. OK, it's not the end of the world. But it is a damned shame.

Of course, I can only assume that with their immense audience insight, Google know all this - and did it anyway.