Google Reader and Unintended Consequences

I read this article on The Atlantic Wire about impending changes in a Google service called Google Reader.  Google Reader might be a little obscure to most users; it’s essentially a portal for aggregating RSS feeds from other websites, allowing you to gather the content from multiple websites in a single view.  Naturally, Google is converging its products to integrate with Google Plus, including the more “social” features of Google Reader, like sharing.  And like most change, people hate it.

What I found interesting, and what (somewhat) intersects with the Emergency Management field is that apparently, dissidents in Iran use Google Reader to communicate, since just about every social networking tool is locked down and/or blocked by the state.  Because Google (the Reader) is difficult to distinguish from Google (the search engine), and because Google has moved toward offering SSL secured communications on most of its products, the dissidents have been able to use it as a communication tool.  In their article, The Atlantic Wire quotes a local blogger, “Amir” who claims that Google Reader is the most popular site in Iran for this reason (it makes me wonder, if someone can separate out Google Reader from the rest of Google for a popularity ranking, why can’t the Iranian government separate it out to filter it?).  I don’t know what will happen, but I’m curious to see what develops.  It’s an interesting example of how when you release a system out into the wild, it can develop in ways you didn’t really intend.




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