The difficulty was that Reader users, while hyperengaged with the product, never snowballed into the tens or hundreds of millions.
So I heard the news last night via twitter that Google Reader is being retired in July. I promptly checked the source and then RTed it with my first reaction (“Nooo! Don’t take away my reader!”), then posted a comment about it on my favourite bboard which noted the news story and asked for suggestions about a replacement. I may also have whined about it on Facebook and signed a petition or two. There is of course also a twitter tag for #savegooglereader.
Only now, finally, am I mentioning it in a blogpost which could show up in other people’s Google Reader RSS feeds.
Such is the social media landscape in 2013. And frankly, the fact I’m writing this on a wordpress blog and not a tumblr, and that I haven’t pinned the story on pinterest just shows where I’m lagging behind the times. None of this is remotely likely to change the decision, it’s just how we communicate these days.
It is perhaps interesting that many of my favourite MMO bloggers had pretty much the same reaction; my Reader is full of posts about the death of Reader today. I guess we all used Google Reader a lot to keep up with the various press releases, community blogs, online publications, and personal blogs so that we could pull them into a community of sorts, and write about them in our blogs. If you ever liked reading my link posts, for example, thank Google Reader. (There will be many more link posts before July as I try to get through all the marked posts in my backlog!)
You would be excused at this point for thinking that Google Reader was the only RSS reader in the world. Of course there are others, and if we love our RSS habits then we’ll pick one and transfer. But it was a very well loved application by the people who used it, and may take a place in history as one of the things that Google got very right, and then fairly wrong, and then ditched. (The fairly wrong was when they neutered the sharing facilities –- you used to be able to add small comments on stories in your news feed and then share them with your friends.)
Even though G+ does offer some of the same functionality, it’s just not as neat and focussed on sharing websites as Reader used to be. People have not, in general, warmed to it.
Some analysis by other people
Google Reader’s former product manager commented on Quora that Reader had been under threat for years and links the decision to Google+.
Rob Fishman has a comprehensive, lively post on buzzfeed around the what could have beens of Google Reader, the social network that google built without meaning to. He’s included a lot about the history of RSS and Google Reader.
Never rely on the cloud
We all know that relying on free programmes and resources made by third parties is kind of a foolish thing to do – or at least unreliable. What is given can be taken away. Yet we all do it, we assume perhaps that they know what they are doing and if they aren’t asking us for money it’s because they have something else figured out.
We all know, also, that loving the product isn’t enough if there aren’t enough like-minded people out there and the money isn’t either. And yet, I’d have happily paid for Google Reader and I will miss it when it is gone. And you have to wonder what will go next if the userbase isn’t large enough, blogger perhaps?
Bloggers and RSS Readers
So a lot of bloggers adore their favourite RSS reader. It’s not surprising, blogs (weblogs) originally started as online journals where people could share their favourite links that they had discovered from around the web. Finding links to articles that other people have written and then reading and commenting on them has always been the nuts and bolts of blogging. All the standard blogging platforms offer an RSS feed, it’s probably displayed prominently on your favourite blogs.
Without Google Reader, people can always find alternatives, but such a huge lack of confidence in the medium from a big name company cannot bode well for the ecosystem.
It may be that blogging’s day in the sun is waning. I don’t entirely know. People do still very much want to share their thoughts, and those thoughts don’t always fit into small messages. Self publishing your own content and being able to create your own curated newsfeed is also the very stuff of Web 2.0, and RSS happens to do it very well. Specialist newsreaders can handle much higher density of usage than a pretty graphical magazine-style front end – you can skim headlines in a list much faster than wading through 17 pages of headers, paragraphs, and (of course) images.
Anyhow, I am checking out some alternatives. I am quite inclined to pick an open source or paid for service (theoldreader.com, feedly and newsblur are on my list to try), and this is a crowd sourced list of current readers if anyone is curious.
Do you use RSS Readers to support your blog reading/ writing?