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Google Reader Shutdown Tidbits

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the shutdown of Google Reader, including the technical reasons behind the decision, the process of handling the shutdown, and the internal communications and politics involved.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Reasons for Google Reader Shutdown

1. What were the main technical reasons for the Google Reader shutdown?

  • The Reader codebase had "rotted" and could no longer be pushed to production, with no code pushes for around 6 months prior to the shutdown.
  • The infrastructure changes made it difficult to maintain the Reader codebase.

2. What other factors contributed to the shutdown decision?

  • The "Wipeout" issue, where data for deleted Gaia accounts was still present, was a minor factor, but not the main reason.
  • Politics did not play a major role, as the easiest option would have been to let the service run indefinitely if politics were the main concern.

[02] Handling the Shutdown Process

1. How was the shutdown process managed internally?

  • The SREs (Site Reliability Engineers) were primarily responsible for the shutdown, with the Reader team on vacation during the final two weeks.
  • The plan was to remove the GFE (Google Frontend) rules on July 1 and then gradually turn off the servers as they understood the dependencies.
  • The feed data was to be handed over to the Feeds team in Zurich, who would hopefully archive it.

2. How was the public announcement handled?

  • The blog post announcing the shutdown was published a day early, in an attempt to have it overshadowed by news about the new Pope and Andy Rubin's replacement as head of Android.
  • This disrupted the internal announcement plans, leading to the town hall and TGIF (now on Thursdays) being dominated by Reader questions.
  • Urs, a VP, was the only one who had decent answers to the Reader questions, while Matt Cutts also defended Reader.

[03] Internal Politics and Communications

1. What was the process of deciding who would announce the Reader shutdown publicly?

  • PR initially asked several directors and VPs to have their name on the blog post, but they all declined, citing upcoming external meetings and not wanting to receive hate for the shutdown.
  • PR then asked Alan, the last engineer standing, to have his name on the post, but he declined. PR then asked his manager to ask him again, and Alan said he would only do it if he was promoted to director, which did not happen.
  • Eventually, Urs agreed to have his name on the blog post.

2. How did the internal communications around the Reader shutdown unfold?

  • PR provided Alan with a terrible draft for the internal communications, which he was allowed to rewrite.
  • The internal announcement plans were disrupted by the early public blog post, leading to the town hall and TGIF being dominated by Reader questions.
  • At one TGIF, Sergey jokingly held up a microphone cable and asked if biting down on it would stop the pain, indicating the level of frustration around the Reader shutdown.
  • During a "bring your parent(s) to work day" event, the first parent asked about the Reader shutdown, which elicited laughter from the Googlers.
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