The news came as a shock, at least for me: Google decided that Google Reader will be shut down as of July, 1st. A lot of reasons have been flying around, with the official statement being that Google needs to focus on fewer products and some saying that they need the engineering team behind Google Reader to start working on Google’s social products (read, Google+). To this, I say: what engineering team?
As far as I can tell, Google Reader hasn’t been updated in ages. Nothing (or close to it) has changed for the last months, if not years. It seems to be, for better or for worse, a finalized product. And if they say the use has been declining, I’m guessing that there isn’t even a storage or server use problem. So, what has its team been working on?
I really don’t get it, but then again, this is and has always been a free product, so we can’t actually demand anything from Google other than a clean way to export our feeds, which they already provide.
Now the future. And this is the part that worries me the most. For me, RSS has always had its own and rightful place in my social activity on the Internet. I don’t (usually) mix it and I totally feel that it’s a completely different ball game from things like Twitter or Facebook. They have a different purpose, but they perfectly complete each other.
RSS is my curated news1, Twitter and Facebook is everyone else’s. And I value each one differently. But I have to say that RSS has played a larger role on my daily on-line activity. I might not check Twitter if I’ve been having a very busy day at work, but I always check my RSS every once in a while. And for RSS, Google Reader has always been the weapon of choice for me.
I don’t use it directly, but it’s the basis of my feed collections since Reeder (which I use on the Mac), Flipboard (which I use on the iPad) and Byline (which I use on the iPhone) all access the Google Reader API directly. And this provides the bliss of my RSS management: if I read in one application it syncs to all other applications.
But what now? Sure, there are alternatives, if you like to use them directly. But what if, like me, you use it through third-party apps? Will they all agree on one single service? Unlikely. Will they all dispute the 1st place now that Google Reader is stepping off the podium? Most definitely. And there goes my RSS management bliss: synchronization.
Well, I may be wrong2. Let’s just wait and see. July is still a few months away and the Internet always finds ways to surprise us. But I’m feeling less than optimistic about it. At least, I’m not reacting like this other guy that apparently is entering a real spiral of raging hate: