Can you imagine a day when you log in to Gmail only to be greeted with a pop-up that tells you: "Gmail will not be available after July 1, 2014"?
Until this morning, I couldn't - like traffic lights, the African rhino and irate internet commenters, I assumed that Gmail would always be there for me, faithfully bringing me newsletters I have no recollection of subscribing to and the odd missive from my far-flung friends.
But I'd thought the same thing about Google Maps and Google Calendar and Google Reader - until this happened:
There but for the grace of Google goes Gmail, Search, Android and everything else the company has in its arsenal.
Google provides a host of services almost willy-nilly - from RSS reading to searching to emailing to music to video to networking, it's got its tendrils in every pie going and we gobble them up.
You pay peanuts...
We use them and we use them for free because that's how it's always been - well, free but for the tacit agreement that Google can shake down our web activity for data to neatly slot us into marketing boxes then target us with adverts for things it thinks we might want (my favourite of which are the adverts for processed meat that I always get after checking my Gmail spam folder).
But Google holds all the cards here: we blindly use the available tools, but if it decides to stop offering them, we haven't got a leg to stand on.
You only have to look at the iOS 6 maps debacle to realise we'll all be lost if Google ditched Maps. If Google suddenly fancies getting out of the webmail game, there are plenty of people who will be royally put out. What if it pulled search? God forbid, we'd all have to move over to Bing. Now it's not outside the realms of possibility that, one day, Android won't be worth Google's bother any more.
Imagine the day, years down the line, when you get into the back seat of your expensive yet fuel efficient driverless car and a disembodied voice intones, "Gcar will not be available after July 1, 2023".
Google encourages us to rely on it, share our data with it, lock ourselves into its vast and ever expanding network but doesn't give us any say in what stays and what goes.
... you get monkeys
After years of investing in these products - an online lifetime of calendar appointments, blog posts, emails and the like - Google can just decide it's not that into cars or mobile OSes or RSS readers any more, and switch them off just like that.
By shuttering Reader, Google's taking a knock in the trust stakes. It's nice that it's given us a few months warning, and great that it's told us all how to extract that painstakingly assembled data - but it sucks that it's just taking Google Reader and telling us that it's because people don't use it.
It's not. You only have to look at the number of "Nooooooooooo!" tweets sent in the last few hours to see that.
It's because Reader doesn't make Google any money. And since that's what it comes down to, I have a solution for Google: ditch the Doodle instead.
I love the Google Doodle but I'll happily do without it if it means I get to keep Google Reader.