Gooder; Localizing Google Reader by Iranian Users

by Leva Zand

"The Internet first entered the lives of urban middle class Iranians in the late 1990s. It expanded only after 2001, when the Unicode system made typing in Persian (the official language of Iran) possible and when owning a computer and connecting to the Internet became technically easier and more affordable" (Amir-Ebrahimi 2008). Writing in Persian opened the door to blogging and within two years there were 700,000 Iranian blogs. It gave voice to minorities more than any other medium, and became very popular among women and youths both inside and outside of Iran. By 2003, governmental officials and representatives began publishing their own blogs, while initiating the persecution of bloggers opposing the regime. The Iranian regime, which could not tolerate any different voices, found blogging a potential treat to its authority.

Over the following years, numerous bloggers were arrested and imprisoned for their statements. In 2005, Tehran's Chief prosecutor ordered major ISPs to filter Persian Blog and other blogging service websites. This filtering became of one the main reasons of Google Reader's popularity in Iran when it was first introduced by Google.

In the English Wikipedia definition, Google Reader is defined as a Web-based aggregator, capable of reading Atom and RSS feeds online or offline. It was released by Google on October 7, 2005 through Google Labs. Reader was graduated from beta status on September 17, 2007. Google Reader Blog, shaped on October 21, 2005 and published its first post on March 23, 2006 has been introduced by Yek Pezesh, the most visited iranian blog (based on Likekhor) and it gradually became popular mostly among bloggers and blogreaders.

Google Reader, which is known as Gooder (Google + Reader) among Iranian users, gave this opportunity to read filtered blogs and websites via their feed. Users could share their favorites items, like them, email the items directly to another, write notes, leave comments and, recently, use it as an advertising tool all in one page. Very soon, Gooder became another social network for Iranian users in additions to Facebook, twitter, FriendsFeed, Orkut, Yahoo 360, and ect.

Arash Kamangir, an Iranian Blogger based in Canada, believes that Google Reader, however, has proved to become more than a feed aggregation service. In fact, Google Reader has become a community-builder, i.e. "The People of Gooder" referred to at the beginning of this piece. He continues: “In addition to sharing and annotating links, a number of bloggers have in fact migrated to Google Reader, where they communicate with fellow bloggers through comments they leave underneath links. As Google Reader also provides tools for posting content which is not necessarily related to a particular note, Gooder is now a stand-alone blogging platform as well. The affair becomes rather confusing when a blogger uses Google Reader to share a note left by another blogger on Google Reader itself. That is not a rarity by any means.” Gooder has been filtered in Iran after the 2008 election and users reach it via proxys.

Extra Links:
debate : if GooDer is a social networking or not (Persian)
Gooder Page on Facebook
Likekhor: This website offers daily analytic data of the Gooder.
Topic revision: r2 - 26 Aug 2011, SabineNiederer
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