Trick-or-Treat: The Google Reader Changes Are Coming Tonight

Despite widespread opposition, Google announces that changes to its beloved Reader are going into effect by the end of the day

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Bad news, Google Reader fans: A new post is up at the Reader blog assuring users that the changes announced over a week ago will reach all users "by end of day." The post details what you'll see soon: a cleaner design (one that matches Gmail's latest look), the replacement of "Like" with "+1" and the replacement of Google Reader in-house sharing functions with Google+-based circle-sharing.

This is surely unwelcome news for the more than 9,000 people who had signed a petition opposing the redesign.

For everyone who hates it, Google's message is clear: That's not our problem. As the post's author puts it:

We hope you'll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader's sharing features wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google.

If you decide to stay, then please do send us your feedback on today's set of improvements. Google+ is still in its early days, after all, and we're constantly working on improvements. If, however, you decide that the product is no longer for you, then please do take advantage of Reader's subscription export feature. 

And many probably will take them up on the offer. As Adam Clark Estes reported this morning, one Google Reader fan has taken matters into his own hands, building HiveMined, a new and improved RSS aggregator that will mimic the old Google Reader's beloved sharing features.

Given the intensity of the opposition, Google must be calculating that even if many people flee Reader to HiveMined or another system, at least a few will transition over to Google+. And if even a few high-volume sharers begin to use Google+, that could inject the flagging network with a fresh shot of content that attracts many more readers.

The lesson is that thousands of people -- even tens of thousands of people -- who use a mostly ad-free service without charge just don't have very much power. Google Reader users: You get what you pay for.

Image: Google.
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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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