Yesterday Google announced it would be closing the ports on Google Reader July 1, and that immediately set the blogosphere abuzz. I read at least a dozen articles this morning about the impact of losing Google Reader. RSS readers have been around a long time, way before Google Reader, it’s just Google Reader was so damn convenient.
I assume, that Google assumes, that mobile device users are moving away from the traditional RSS feed readers to programs like Zite, Pulse, Flipboard, and Google Currents, and that very well might be true. I’ve certainly become a Zite addict. But if you’re a total news junky, trying to conquer the fire hose of data that is the Internet, RSS technology is still the best tool around.
If you search on Google for “Google Reader Alternatives” you will get a barrage of advice. I’ve been trying various alternatives all day long, but some of these sites are bogged down by people just like me, so now might not be the best time to go kicking tires on a new RSS car.
Also, there are reports that some programs that work with the Google Reader back end are calling it quits.
I’d like a RSS news reader that has a web app, plus an app for my iPad and iPod touch. Zite, Flipboard and Currents only works with mobile devices. I joined Pulse and Feedly today, both of which have slick, customizable interfaces. However, neither one seems to be designed for people with dozens or hundreds of RSS feeds. Google Reader’s plain interface worked well with lots of feeds.
Next, I thought about standalone application like FeedDemon, but Nick Bradbury, FeedDemon’s creator, announced he was calling it quits. But Bradbury also sounded like interest in FeedDemon was on the wane anyway. Another bad indicator for RSS health.
I wonder how many online and offline programs use Google Reader’s engine to make their program work? I also looked at Feedreader, but it wouldn’t accept my registration for the online version. So I installed their client version, and discovered what it means to run my own RSS reader demon. I’m not sure I want yet another process running in the background.
Newsblur said the demand was too high for free accounts, and asked if I wanted a paid account. I might, but I’m waiting to see what happens in the next few weeks.
That’s why Google Reader was so nice, it did all the work at its site, allowed a whole array of apps to use it, and was free. Google hosting all those feeds is why so many programs depended on it. Maybe it’s time to pay for the service. If we all paid Google a $1 a month, would Google be tempted to keep the service going?
If not, does this mean the beginning of the end for RSS? Or is it time to pay for our lunch?
RSS technology allows people to build their own unique news service. Theoretically it should be the ultimate tool for people to get their daily news. But RSS isn’t perfect. You can have 10 feeds, each providing 10 stories a day, but 90 of those stories might not be ones you want to read. Zite, and other magazine builder apps, seek to send you stories that you really want to read by tracking your interests far more closely than RSS. If they can make that work, RSS will die.
I love Zite, but it’s not perfect either. I’m constantly thinking about how to be more efficient in my news gathering and reading. It’s important to read about the topics you are most fascinated by, but it’s also important to be exposed to a wide range of new topics.
I assume RSS is dying. How many people know how to configure NNTP client anymore? I loved Usenet newsgroups, but haven’t used them in years. Except at work I never use FTP or Telnet anymore. The Internet is no longer a playground for techies. And using computers and the Internet doesn’t make you a Geek. People want easy to use transparent services. Google giving up on Google Reader is just a sign of that trend of taking the geekiness out of the Internet.
JWH – 3/14/13 (Happy Pi Day)