There has been much furor over the deprecation of Google Reader’s built-in social tools, especially the ability to share feed items with comments.
The first problem with forcing Reader users to shift over to Plus is that it brings many more people directly into conflict with the much debated real name policy for the search giant’s shiny new social network. Feed reading and curation is often closely associated with blogging, an activity that has a long and respected tradition (despite the occasional conspicuous failure) of anonymous and pseudonymous authorship. Many such users previously had an easier time following Google’s own advice to not use Plus if they are not in a position to use a real or common name.
This leads to the second problem with Google’s stance on not just this change, but now a couple of recent policies. Namely they have been espousing the view that if you don’t like how they run their services, you can export your data and use some other tool. Richard MacManus at ReadWriteWeb takes a pretty dim view of that recommendation, reasoning that the popularity of Reader has killed off the alternatives.
I agree only in so far as if you want a feed reader that is accessible from multiple machines, remembering the state of what you have or have not read and offers the ability to directly curate items from the reader, as opposed to using a blog or tumblr, then Google’s stance is indeed incredibly disingenuous.
The optimist in me, however, hopes that Google’s ham-fisting of Reader shakes enough free software and open source developers loose from their complacency to quickly spin up some compelling alternatives. I think there is some serious low hanging fruit here in the form of bridging between the feed reading capabilities in Mozilla’s Thunderbird and their Sync service, a secure and extensible means of sharing state between multiple instances.