After ten days of hemming and hawing, Google is ready to address — but not apologize to — those users upset by the death of Reader's social features. "We understand that some may not like this change," a Google spokesperson told The Atlantic Wire. "Retiring Reader's sharing features wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas and build an even better experience across all of Google."
Undoubtedly, some people like Reader's facelift for the cleaner design, but those opposed are increasingly vocal. As we've reported last week, the group of Google Reader evangelists known as the Sharebros did not take Google's decision to redesign the social RSS-site lightly. About 10,000 disgruntled Sharebros have signed a petition, and some are even working on building their own replacement site, HiveMined, that resurrects the now missing following, sharing and commenting features as Google encourages people to use Google+ for these kinds of things. Francis Cleary, the developer that came up with and has been building the Reader replacement, told us on Monday, "Google+ is a cool idea, but it's not about content first. It's about page views — that's not what people want."
Then there's the matter of the Iranian freedom fighters. Because Google Reader worked effectively like a social network, and because it existed in the google.com domain, the Iranian government didn't block access as they had for Facebook and Twitter. The network of Iranian activists protested loudly when Google announced the move to Google+, because they were worried that the Iranian government would cut off yet another lifeline used to organize online. In a post on their official Farsi blog, Google addressed the Iranian protesters but not the domain issue. A rough (Google Translate) translation reads:
We are currently developing solutions to tackle other forms of support for the identity (beyond the common use of real names), but in time we'll try to post more information that's not in this report. We believe that support for pseudonyms valuable feature for Google+ and the team is trying to accomplish it. Meanwhile, Google Reader continues to support the RSS feed Subscribe (RSS Feed) to a large group of users in Iran.
Pseudonyms could protect Iranians freedom fighters from being identified on social networks, but Iran's history of blocking freedom of speech suggests that they probably won't have access to Google's social network at all. In July, Iran's culture minister called Google+ "a new spy tool on the Web" and cut off access less than two weeks after launch. But don't worry, "a large group of users in Iran" can still read RSS feeds. Free speech between the Iranian citizens, be damned.