Makes no sense, right? Google Reader went the way of the dodo on July 1st and yet, if you look at your RSS feed’s metrics, thar she blows, if you’ll forgive my mixing up fauna-related metaphors. What gives?
Short answer: Because Google keeps telling us that it’s polling your feed on behalf of those subscribers, and we diligently report it.
Long answer: Well, actually, the long answer is the same as the short one! But why, Phil, why?
Well, we could, I suppose, make an editorial decision along the lines of: Google Reader is no longer available, so we shouldn’t report the numbers. Therein, I feel, lies a slippery slope, and it’s not one I want to slide down, judging which feed bots to report, and which not to. Also, something inside the Google Reader infrastructure is clearly very much alive, since it is polling RSS feeds, and reporting consistent numbers on a daily basis. The back end of GR is clearly up and running, at a minimum. So even though the product isn’t available, it still exists, in some way, shape or form, in the dark heart of a Google datacenter somewhere.
And why is that, do you suppose? I think there are several possible reasons:
- They shut down the product’s UI, closed down the team, but simply forgot to turn off the feed polling engine.
- The feed fetcher code is so embedded in Google’s broader search architecture that it will cost too much time to engineer it out, so it is simpler, cheaper and less risky to leave it running.
- The feed fetcher is actaully delivering value to Google’s search or advertising systems, and so leaving it on is a conscious decision, and the erroneous subscriber reporting is an unfortunate side effect that only affects feed publishers, and we all know how Google feels about them. Us. You.
So that’s how the subscriber counts still appear for Google Reader – they keep telling us they’re there! – and some speculation as to why it’s still going on.
I do agree that it is fundamentally misleading of Google to shut down the subscription service yet still continue to report subscribers. Perhaps at some point, no matter why Feed Fetcher still runs, they can get it to correctly report that it is currently serving exactly zero subscribers. (Don’t hold your breath though.)
Meanwhile, any ideas of your own as to why it’s still running? Bring them up in the comments. Bonus points for humor and / or biting sarcasm