Now that Google has officially switched to its new version of Google Reader, complete with Google+ integration, the company is facing the righteous fury of a social network it barely seemed to recognize: the Sharebros.
This small but maniacally dedicated community of Google Reader users was able to share stories and comments with each other until Monday, when the new version of Reader forced them to start using Google+. But the Sharebros are not taking the snub lying down.
Since the changes were announced earlier this month, more than 10,000 Sharebros have signed a petition to Google created by Washington, D.C.-based grad student Brett Keller.
“Many of us have been faithful users of your Reader for years,” the petition reads. “It’s central to our daily information consumption … Reader builds tremendous goodwill from a core group of heavy Internet users, leading us to recommend this and your other services to our friends.
“Eliminating Google Reader or its features (like following friends’ shared items) is short-sighted because you will alienate some of your most loyal users, sparking a vocal backlash.”
Among those loyal users: Iranian activists. Google Reader is the most visited site in Iran, having gained much of its popularity during the “green revolution” of 2009. The country’s government has banned most social networks and blogging services; Sharebros inside the country say Reader has been an extremely useful way to share news and comments under the radar.
Some Iranian users had as many as 7,500 followers on Reader, according to Iranian blogger Amir.
Many Sharebros have taken to Twitter to vent their anger, posting under hashtags such as #OccupyGoogleReader. While there are workarounds for Sharebros to transfer their following to Google+ circles, many indicated they would not be interested in switching.
“Dear Google: taking away my Google Reader functionality will not make me use Google+,” wrote blogger Megan McArdle. “It will only make me mad.”
Even some Googlers joined in sympathy with the Sharebros, such as engineers Kevin Fox (who helped design an early version of Reader) and Mihai Parparita.
Will that be enough to convince Google to give Sharebros an option to roll back the changes? Or does CEO Larry Page’s much-heralded focus on social media mean that the Sharebros must be sacrificed for the greater good of Google+? Let us know what you think in the comments.