Reader, Keep and a Dissection of Google’s Madness

I’m on a bit of a vacation this week from the world of tech, spending my time instead being Mr. Husband and Mr. Homeowner. I can’t help but chirp up, however, on the subject of Google’s newly-launched Evernote competitor, Keep.

In case you’re not keeping up with the Angry Nerds crowd, people are pretty mad that Google decided to rather abruptly shut down its RSS service named Reader. The backlash of that is still ringing strong, with smart people like Om Malik telling Google that he won’t be using Keep because he can’t trust that it won’t meet the same fate.

I can’t speak to Google’s long-term plans, but I do think that Keep will stick around. In the grand scheme of things, where Google makes more money by understanding user behavior, a service such as Keep makes perfect sense.

In case you’ve missed the news, Google’s amazing-service-du-jour is Google Now. It’s the “living in the future” app that many of us have been wanting. Though its results start off somewhat lackluster, the more that you use it, and the more that it knows about you, the more amazing it becomes.

Google Now is impressive because of semantics. It knows what you’ve searched, where you are and what you’re doing (roughly). With this information, it can offer information, rather than just providing data.

Semantics are the holy grail to Google. As Matt Cutts has often talked about, one of the most interesting challenges for search is understanding what someone means when a searched term is a synonym for another. Google, via Android (and also some iOS apps), your personal account and your history on both already knows a lot about you. But there are personal semantics that are missing.

What do you care about? What sorts of things do you find important enough to keep for later? If you save loads of articles that reference freshwater fish, and many more that talk about cooking or healthy lifestyles, Google is likely to be able to draw the connection that you enjoy eating fish and it can provide better contextual search results for you. While there’s a chance that you’re a fan of aquariums, the semantics make the difference.

With Keep, Google is opening the door to a layer of information about its users that it hadn’t previously been able to reach. Is Keep safe from the swinging axe of product death? Nobody can answer that just yet. But what’s definitely true is that, to Google, Keep is a much more important product than Reader.

Remember, kids, when it comes to Google, you are the product being sold.


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