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December 26, 2007

Google Reader Blinks, and the Mob Wins

As Google's features become more widely adopted, the company will have to transition from developing products an engineer would love to developing products that more mainstream, less geeky users can understand right away.

At times, it seems the company's high and mighty approach to software development can leave many guessing to their intentions, and the motto of "Don't Be Evil" just doesn't cut it any more.

As noted earlier today in my post "Forget About Privacy. Embrace Openness.", the blogosphere seemed up in arms over a recent innovation by the company's Google Reader team to tie in your "friends" list within GMail and GTalk with your shared items in Google Reader. While on its face, this innovation would more easily bring those things you find interesting to your friends, it instead raised holy Hell with those who never considered just who could gain access to a list of items they had made public. It had people screaming about privacy, saying Google had ruined Christmas, and had others demanding to know why someone they had a casual conversation with was somehow called their "friend".

While I believe the revolt was seriously overblown, and that those decrying the sharing need to wake up to the transparency of the Web, it looks like Google had enough bad press for one holiday, and cried Uncle. Tonight, the Google Reader team offered a new blog post, lightly titled "Managing your shared items", that enables you to make some of your "shared" items private. As they write, "Thanks to all our users for helping to make Google Reader better, so please keep your feedback coming!"

"Thanks for all the feedback" in Geek world is a euphemism for "Stop complaining and pointing out our problems!", slightly mixed with the angel dust of PR. And Google isn't a huge fan of bad PR, so they got this one fixed right away. For now... until their next innovation gets voted out by the TechMeme mob and non-expert netizens.