When Google Kills a Service…

Google is, on many levels, the Wal*Mart of the web. They’re that behemoth that has the ability to make or break a product or service.

When Wal*Mart tells Heinz Ketchup, for example, to lower their price if they want to show up on W’s shelves, Heinz has two options: lower prices (typically by cutting back on la or costs or using cheaper ingredients) or disappear from Wal*Mart and therefor lose out on millions of sales.

This is exactly what happened and now, where Heinz Ketchup used to be on every table in every restaurant in town, now you’ll often see Huntz instead. They use better ingredients, plain and simple. A better tasting, healthier alternative being used by a growing number of eateries around the US. A chef doesn’t grow his own veggies, bake his own buns and source his beef locally only to watch as patrons smear high fructose corn syrup ketchup all over his burgers.

Similarly, when Google creates a service, people flock to it. And rightly so. Ever since Google search, Adwords and Gmail reinvented how we use the web, we’ve trusted them. So everyone who knew what RSS feeds were and cared to use them jumped onto Google Reader. It was simply done right. Like Heinz Ketchup in the 1900s.

Few other companies tried to compete with Reader, and those that did simply didn’t have the user base that Google boasts. Those that managed to hold on almost always did so by providing a prettier interface that used Reader as the engine behind it all.

Then Reader disappeared. All of these users were shanked. Never mind that Google used our reading habits to better their search results and our friendships on Reader to help develop Orkut, Wave and then Google+.

Never mind that when they shut down Feedburner later this year millions of sites will lose their entire subscriber base. Never mind that lots of companies have paid thousands on hundreds of thousands of dollars to back the soon to be defunct Google Checkout only to receive an email today stating that it will be turned off soon.

Like Wal*Mart, who sweeps into town promising low prices and puts local shops out of business, and their employees out of jobs, in favor of less jobs with lower pay rates and cheaper goods (cheap as in plastic not cheap as in value), Google can crush startups as easily as it can by and delete them entirely.

I’ve always believed the do no evil hype. And they have made the world a better place. But canceling services because thousands instead of millions of people rely on them shows a level of disregard for customers that even Wally World wouldn’t stoop to.

Imagine if Wal*Mart swooped in, forced everything else to close, and then close its own doors a few years later. All of those businesses it crushed would be unlikely to resume immediately. Unemployment would run rampant, crime would rise, places would decay.

But the web is cheaper than brick and mortar. As Google closes its various doors, we have a real opportunity to watch as startups fill these discarded shoes. Feedly is a great example. Stripe may hail as Checkouts alternative. Even Facebook exists because Google was too slow to game.

We have an opportunity to see some good come out of Google’s irresponsible practices. And be sure that as new features come out under the G-label users will be wary of playing the G-uinea pig.

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