Recently, Google rather unceremoniously announced as one bullet point in a post titled “A second spring of cleaning,” that it was shutting down Google Reader, one of the world’s most popular RSS readers, effective July 1, 2013.
It caused much more of an uproar in my social circles than the deprecation of Search API for Shopping or retirement of Google Building Maker that were also announced in the same post.
Mashable wondered “Will Killing Google Reader Increase Global Censorship?” and called it “A Blow to News Junkies.” And, The Economist noted that “Many websites which have come to depend on the service to power their news feeds now fret that Google’s decision will cost them millions of readers—and with that lots of advertising revenue.”
Back in October 2011, when Google announced the removal of Reader’s share features, Dave Winer – one of the early developers of RSS in the 90s – said it was scary to see so much of RSS use in one app and that “Google seems to have the power to either seriously injure RSS, or perhaps set it free.” At the time, The Atlantic surmised it was part of a Google push to get people using Google+ for following, friending and sharing links.
The official reason Google has given this time for completely ending the service is “usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products.” I believe them because I must confess “I am Sparticus”-style that I have killed Google Reader.
With the launch of Twitter seven years ago, the ever-increasing growth of Facebook, the use within my employer of Chatter, and even ye olde email, the number of links to interesting news shared with me on a daily basis has made the need to search out news in an RSS reader irrelevant.
Back in the early 2000s, I was an avid RSS fan. My first favorite platform for reading feeds was Bloglines. When it went through some uncertain times being sold, closed, re-sold and re-opened, I moved over to Google Reader. Like a custom online daily newspaper, reading feeds was once was the way I’d start my day. But now I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually looked at my Google Reader.
Now that Google has announced Reader’s sunset, Winer says “I don’t doubt that people will be well-served by a newly revitalized market for RSS products, now that the dominant product, the 800-pound gorilla, is withdrawing.”
And if you still have no idea what RSS even is… here’s a little slide deck I put together almost eight years ago when I was working on the team that first brought the technology to Dell.com – before Google Reader even existed:
It’s pretty funny to me to look back at that presentation and see how it mentions that Windows Vista “will have” support for RSS, since we’re two revisions of Windows OS past that now. Much like how operating systems continue to go on without a majority of people paying attention, I agree with Winer that RSS will go on. I suspect it will just get pushed further back than it already was from the purview of mainstream users.
However, if you are a Google Reader user looking for an alternative, lifehacker, emoderation, unclutterer and many others have compiled helpful lists of other platforms for managing and reading RSS feeds. Or, you could do like me and Don Reisinger and simply let Twitter be your RSS reader.
I see it as just the minor footnote Google played it to be when they combined its death knell with that of several other obsolete services.
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