How many users did Google Reader really have?

I think about 20 millions. Here’s why.

When Google announced the shutdown of Reader, there was wild speculation and not much data on how large its user base actually was. Some even claimed Reader had more users than Google+, which at the time had a few hundred millions.

Can we estimate Reader’s user base? Is there any useful data? Assuming most Reader users switched to other RSS readers, their combined user base may be a reasonable approximation.

This article summarizes a report by the web analytics startup with traffic data on website visits coming from different sources, including RSS readers:

Feedly dominating the post-Reader world, and other web-publishing insights from

According to this data, Feedly is now the dominant player. The chart “RSS READERS” in the article shows that the combined traffic from other readers is less than Feedly’s, and the same is probably true of their user bases.

Given that Feedly currently has over 13 million users (source:, I’d say adding up the user bases of the other readers and rounding a bit brings the count to not much more than 20 million users. There may be other RSS readers not included in the data, but they are fairly minor players and the estimate probably doesn’t change much.

To put this into perspective, the most popular social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have at least an order of magnitude more users, from several hundred millions to a billion or so. Even MySpace and Orkut, Google’s lesser known social network, have much more than 20 million users.

Much as we love Reader, we should concede that the product’s user base was probably pocket change for such a web giant as Google. This pocket change, however, is quite respectable for a startup like Feedly and other small players in the new RSS space.

Is this estimate reasonable? Do you have any other data?

Image: I took this screenshot of the Google Reader Android app on my Nexus 4 smartphone.

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Published on September 02, 2013 09:42 • 226 views

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