* App to be retired on July 1
* Online petition to save it garners 54,000 sign-ups in 16 hours
* Google cites lack of usage, shifting company focus for closure
* Company to shut seven other services
By Sayantani Ghosh
March 14 (Reuters) - Google Inc said it will shut Google Reader on July 1, citing declining usage for the application that compiles content served by web feeds, as it forges ahead with its strategy to focus on fewer products that have more impact.
Google Reader aggregates feeds in RSS (rich site summary) — a format for creating streams from changing Web content — and makes it easy for people to discover websites of interest and keep tabs on them.
But the service has become less compelling in recent years with the growing popularity of Twitter.
Google said there were “two simple reasons” for closing the service, which was launched in 2005. “Usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we are pouring all of our energy into fewer products,” the company said on its official blog on Wednesday.
Google declined to comment beyond the blog post.
“These moves support our general thesis that management is disciplined in its capital allocation efforts,” Morningstar analyst Rick Summer said, adding that none of these closures will affect his forecast or fair value estimate on Google’s stock.
Google has not disclosed the number of Google Reader users, but irate users of the doomed app took to Twitter on Thursday to vent about the closing of the service, making “Google Reader” one of the top trending topics on the microblogging site.
“Shutdown of Google Reader because of a ‘lack of consumer appeal?’ No way. The simple reason: RSS can’t be controlled and monetized easily,” one Twitter user wrote.
“The killing Of Google Reader highlights the risk of relying on a single provider,” another Tweet said.
Dan Lewis, a New York lawyer, started a campaign on petition website Change.org to save Google Reader that garnered about 54,000 supporters in about 16 hours.
Change.org, a for-profit platform funded through non-profit advertising, is paid by human and animal rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Humane Society to host their petitions. It has 20 million users.
Demonstrating the site’s effectiveness, PepsiCo Inc recently removed a controversial chemical from its Gatorade drinks following concerns from consumers and an online petition on Change.org started by a Mississippi teenager.
Some Google Reader users pointed out alternative readers such as Feedly , RSSowl and NewsBlur, and Feedly was quick to capitalize on Google’s announcement by offering tips to Reader users for moving their data to its website.
NewsBlur said in a Tweet that its site had slowed because of the heavy traffic caused by users fleeing Google Reader.
Google said users and developers interested in alternatives to Reader can export their data, including subscriptions, with the Google Takeout service over the next four months.
Google Takeout allows users take their data out of multiple Google products and collate it in portable and open formats, making it easy to export to other services.
The company said it would retire seven other products and services over the next few months, including its voice app for BlackBerry .
In a blogpost titled “A second spring of cleaning”, Google said the latest closures meant it has now pulled the plug on 70 features or services since it started streamlining its product base in 2011.