Back in 2018, Area 120, Google's experimental product division, introduced Rivet, a free reading-practice app for kids. It has since dropped the beta label and gained smartphone support, making it more accessible to a higher number of parents and children. As Rivet is a Google product, it was safe to assume the app could be axed unexpectedly, which is precisely what the company just announced.

Rivet offered a collection of more than 1,500 free books for kids to practice reading, combined with a child-friendly UI. I particularly appreciated the option to tap on any word to hear it out loud, as well as the activity email updates sent to parents by email. Together with our very own Artem and his kids, more than 10 million people had downloaded the app, and even gave it ratings of 4.4 stars on Google Play. Sadly, these users received some sad news by email:

Dear Rivet Community,

We are writing to share that Rivet will be moving to Google Assistant this winter, and will be shutting down as a mobile and web app on October 16, 2020.

Rivet was developed as an experimental product within Area 120, Google’s in-house product incubator. Like many Area 120 projects, Rivet was an experiment, and while the mobile and web apps will be shut down, we are excited that Rivet will live on with Google Assistant. We have loved developing Rivet and bringing creative approaches to reading practice to our users worldwide.

We are so grateful for your support of Rivet, and hope you enjoyed using it as much as we enjoyed building it.

For more information, please refer to the FAQ on our website.

With gratitude,
The Rivet Team

The app isn't entirely shutting down, at least according to Google. Instead, it's "moving" to Google Assistant this winter, and will probably be exclusive to Nest Hub and Max smart displays. In the meantime, the mobile and web apps will be shut down on October 15, and all user data will be permanently deleted from Google's servers by mid-November. On the positive side, a selection of Rivet books is available for free on Google Kids Space, even though it won't offer the same experience your children would have been used to.

It's not clear what Google's approach is here, especially given the app's popularity and recognition. The company may want to make it exclusive to its smart displays to bump their sales, but the idea itself makes little sense, as I hardly see a child trying to learn how to read in front of a device that's plugged it versus a tablet they can use wherever they want.