By now, you’ve probably heard the crushing news. Google is shutting down Google Reader – the near-ubiquitous RSS service – on July 1. This is an absolutely terrible decision on a number of levels, and the internet will be much worse off come this summer.
I was a relatively early adopter of RSS, initially using it in my browser – either through a toolbar or Internet Explorer’s built-in RSS subscriptions – and eventually moving over to Nick Bradbury’s Feed Demon. When the developer added support for Google Reader, I quickly embraced the Mountain View-based company’s service. I was only using a single desktop PC at the time, so the ability to check the news from any browser was extremely appealing.
Over the years, I became even more entrenched in – and reliant on – Google Reader. I used it for everything, from keeping up on the latest news or following rarely-updated websites to managing items I want to read later. I rarely visited the website, but the service is so ubiquitous that you didn’t really have to. Every internet-connected device I use has a Google Reader-based app, from the official Google Reader app or the feature-rich-but-outdated Feed Demon to newer apps like Feed Reader (my personal favorite), NextGen Reader, and hundreds if not thousands of other apps. No other RSS – or, for that matter, news service – is as ubiquitous as Google Reader. In fact, one could argue that it’s one of the most ubiquitous services period, just behind Netflix and Twitter (although the latter is slowly killing off third-party apps).
When Google Reader is shut down on July 1, the internet will be much worse off. Sure, there are RSS apps that don’t rely on Google Reader, but none are available on every single platform you can imagine. And they don’t offer nearly as many features, either.
There are some who think that RSS is old and outdated, and that people should just move on to something newer like Facebook or Twitter. These, however, are far from an RSS replacement. RSS is great because it allows me to subscribe to hundreds of websites and sit back while the news comes to me. If I had to manually check every website I want to stay up-to-date on, it would take me all day. It’s for this reason that I refuse to visit news sites and blogs without an RSS feed. I’ve worked hard to keep my subscriptions to an absolute minimum, but I still have more than 350 of them serving up approximately 800-1,000 new items every day. There’s no way I could keep on top of all of this using a social network, which doesn’t track read/unread states, saved (starred) items, etc. Worse, Facebook doesn’t always show you everything either!
As many people probably know – or have guessed – I don’t use many Google services. Sure, I have a Google account and I’ve spent some time with most if not all of the company’s products and services at some point, but my Gmail account is rarely used and Google+ is a wasteland. Personally, I prefer Microsoft’s services. The only Google services I use on a regular basis are Google Reader, YouTube, and FeedBurner. I must be terrible at picking Google services, because two of the three have either been shut down or are in imminent danger of such a fate.
In our news post regarding this announcement, fellow Pocketables editor Andreas noted that “Google is crossing yet another line and putting its own interest ahead of its users, which is something that might be good for the wallet, but not brand loyalty.” That certainly seems to be the case in this situation. Yes, RSS might not be very popular with the average user, but for the large group of power users, it’s a crucial way of interacting with the internet. By shutting down Google Reader, the company is effectively killing RSS. We’re going to be in serious trouble unless another service comes along that is just as robust and ubiquitous.
Congratulations, Google. You just killed off one of the very few Google services I use and the only one I actually cared about. I’m afraid about what will happen to some of my favorite apps, not to mention the future reliable news delivery on the internet.