Reader all about it

google-reader-logoLast week, Google caused a right kerfuffle by announcing the closure of Google Reader – the RSS feed reading service that lets you keep up with news and websites via the magic of syndication. They’ve blamed the closure on a desire to focus on key products, plus the decline of users on the service. They’re not saying they want to promote the use of Google+ instead, but we all know that is the case.

The instant reaction from most users is shock, horror, and a desire to find a replacement. Google have granted a grace period until July until they close it for good, but they haven’t made much effort in promoting alternatives. I tried out Feedly, and I’ve backed up my feed list, but I’ll wait and see if there are any exciting developments before I pin my hat to any particular replacement.

Aside from the “what am I going to do now” reaction, there have been two trains of thought on how this will affect RSS as a whole. Both stem from the fact that Google swamped the feed reader market with their free product and huge reach, thus stifling innovation. Some think their withdrawal will mean the death of RSS feeds, whilst others think it frees up the market for innovation to return.

I can see both sides. On the one hand, the news made me go and look at my RSS feeds in a fresh “do I really need this” light. There are a few personal sites I look at that don’t seem to have Twitter or another means of checking in. I’m unlikely to remember to go back to sites on a regular basis, so that could be an issue. Otherwise, I follow heaps of news sites that I can’t really keep up with, and now that I am more on top of recent podcasts (like Tech News Today) I’m not sure I need to fail at keeping up with all the stories from CNET and The Verge as well.

If Google Reader disappears, and I don’t get round to finding a replacement, would I really be missing out on that much?

On the other hand, I’m intrigued to see if innovation does thrive. I’ve got a couple of apps scattered about that are great feed readers, but they hang off the Google Reader structure. It would surely only take a couple of tweaks to be able to deal with the subscriptions themselves, and from there, the app-makers will be in full control. That in turn, could see feeds and readers develop. RSS itself has fallen woefully behind in terms of keeping up with standards and emerging web technologies, so this is something that needs to happen.

I can’t predict which way the RSS future will fall, but I think that something needed to change, and if Google being the bad guy is what is required to make it happen, well, I think they can take it.

8 thoughts on “Reader all about it

  1. i can’t see how clients can innovate when the rss standard is effectively frozen/dead?

    the biggest issue feeds faced was the lack of commercial incentive to drive new features. free and open is great, but without anyone to lead it, the promise failed to keep up with needs.

    it’s also way too geeky for anyone but technical people to comprehend.

    facebook, twitter, g+ and more are far more sensible and user friendly means of following things you’re interested in.

  2. Disappointed that Google consider this worth getting rid of, especially as a blogger too. Feedly is at least an excellent alternative.

  3. Google Reader plays a pretty important part in how I used the web to get my news. I follow a limited number of sites and let all of the news come to me rather than having to go out and check all over the place.

    The problem with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is that your feeds get blocked up with so much other stuff. I might see someone tweet a link to their article, but by the time I have got time to read it the tweet is pushed miles down my list and I can’t find it.

    I think a serious number of people are building new Readers so I’m going to sit back and wait a while before I decide where to move to.

  4. A button on Twitter to “save for later” would be incredibly useful. Some use favourites for that but it doesn’t quite work for me.

    I was listening to a podcast discussing this issue and they said Twitter and the like was for browsing, immediate reactions. Reader or whatever will replace it is your already curated list of news that you get to when you’re ready, time-shifted, the DVR of web content.

  5. I agree with Richard, there’s a lot of worthless stuff in a Twitter feed, although I am making headway by more use of muting hashtags, people and RTs… I use Instapaper as a read / save for later service and there’s a ‘Send to Instapaper’ option in Tweetbot, and I assume other clients too.
    It’s ironic that I haven’t been using an RSS reader up to now, but all the discussion around Google Reader closing has made me consider using one. There are several list-type websites I go to every day and it seems like I could check them all in one place with a reader. I looked at Feedly, but it wanted me to create an account with Google. There didn’t seem much point in doing that now, knowing that it’s about to close. Regardless of other reading clients, isn’t the bigger problem who’s going to replace the account management part..? If Feedly doesn’t have it’s own accounts and log ins, what’s going to happen in July?

  6. Mr C,
    Does RSS need innovation? As I said in my previous comment, I don’t currently use a reader client, so I’m no expert, but I know RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (at least recently). Once there was a standard that worked, isn’t frozen OK – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
    I thought the problem was that Google killed development of clients by providing a good, free reader, so there was no market for other developers to make and sell a client. Hopefully, now that Google has taken their ball and gone home, some of the indies will come back.

  7. Feedly have this big thing about doing a seamless transition from Google to their own thing when the hug switchover happens. As a user, we are not supposed to even notice it’s changed. They reckon they’ve had 500,000 sign ups since Google’s announcement.

  8. I’m looking forward to the hug switchover 🙂
    I suppose there’s no harm in signing up to Feedly via Google even though the latter is going away.

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