Americans took to the Internet Thursday as tens of thousands signed petitions on sites pleading for Google Reader's life.
One of several on the Change.org online petition website had collected more than 63,000 signatures by 1:30 p.m. ET, less than 24 hours after Google announced that Reader and its RSS feed would vanish July 1.
Dan Lewis, the director of new media communications for Sesame Street, kicked off that petition Wednesday, calling on Google to reverse its retirement plans for Google Reader. "You're a huge corporation, with a market cap which rivals the GDP of nations," wrote Lewis. "Show us you care. Don't kill Google Reader."
Lewis declined an interview request Thursday, even as his petition was accumulating thousands of signatures each hour.
Others also took to Change.org, which listed at least six more petitions, their titles reflecting some serious angst. "Please do not shut down Google Reader," read one that had gathered nearly 4,000 signees in just hours. "Please don't kill Google Reader!" another with 4,800 signatures stated.
Even Change.org was impressed with the reaction, particularly to the petition started by Lewis.
"Getting 63,000 signatures on a petition in less than a day is extremely rare," said Charlotte Hill, Change.org's communications manager, in an email. "There are 20,000 petitions started every month on Change.org, and only a handful, if that, achieve that rate of growth."
Google announced Reader's death on Wednesday in a blog post that also IDed several other scrubbed projects. The company cited declining use of Reader for the decision.
That was likely true, but Reader fans -- or simply users, since many were connecting to Google's RSS feed through third-party applications or websites like Reeder on OS X, and Feedly on the Web -- reacted with alarm.
One user went to the trouble of registering the keepgooglereader.com domain yesterday to host a petition. "If Google won't keep Google Reader alive, then lets [sic] get them to open source the code and we will run it ourselves! Who is with me?" asked the site owner, Christopher McCann, of the U.K.
McCann's campaign had attracted nearly 24,000 signatures by 1:30 p.m. ET.
Someone even created a petition on the White House's We the People petition platform. But that petition was deleted by the White House, which said it violated the framework's terms.
One petition on Change.org asking Google to reconsider its death-to-Reader decision has collected more than 62,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Those terms forbid petitions "that advertise or call for the endorsement or purchase of commercial goods or services" as well as those "that do not address the current or potential actions or policies of the federal government."
It seems unlikely that Google will listen to consumers' calls to keep Reader and the RSS feed alive. "We've given an overview of our reasoning and plans on our blog posts ... and we'll be communicating directly with our users as we make these changes," a Google spokeswoman said in an email reply to a request for comment. "We don't have anything more to share than what was in the posts."
Brian Shih, who said he had once been Google Reader's project manager, noted that Google had tried to kill the service several times.
"Reader has been fighting for approval/survival at Google since long before I was a PM for the product," Shih wrote on Quora. "I'm pretty sure Reader was threatened with de-staffing at least three times before it actually happened. So with dwindling usefulness to Google Plus, (likely) dwindling or flattening usage due to being in maintenance, and Google's big drive to focus in the last couple of years, what choice was there but to kill the product?"
Meanwhile, users -- some who said they were "freaking out" even though the deadline was more than three months away -- have scrambled to find alternatives. Unfortunately, many of the most popular rely on the Reader RSS data stream.
And Feedly, a Web-based RSS service with add-ons for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and also iOS and Android apps, said it would "seamlessly transition" to an RSS back-end infrastructure of its own creation this summer.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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