Essay: Godspeed, Google Reader

Sections: Google, Web

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The author’s Google Reader latest

Google, as you may have noticed, discontinues stuff all the time. But when it does, my life is usually minimally affected. Remember Google Wave, which was supposed to revolutionize communications? I couldn’t tell you to this day exactly what that was or what it was supposed to do, and I just sort of shrugged when Google killed it in 2010. Google Viewer, Google Checkout, Google Health, GOOG-411, Froogle, Knol… these were all things I rather never used, or used once or twice and decided they weren’t for me.

That’s part of what makes this week’s announcement of the impending closure of Google Reader so jarring. Google said Wednesday that the service will shut down July 1, because “while the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.”

This seriously bums me out in a way that, say, the death of Google Health didn’t. Not only do I still use Reader, but I pretty much run the entire flow of all my work through it.

As a journalist, web editor and general news and info junkie who doesn’t like to miss anything, Google Reader was pretty much made for me. I have RSS feeds saved for a couple hundred websites and blogs, organized into categories.

Every morning, before I send out the two e-newsletters I edit that cover the consumer electronics industry, I scroll through the “Technology” folder in Reader, to check out any news stories or press releases I missed overnight. I do the same with the “Movies and TV” folder to look for story ideas for EntertainmentTell, my “Philadelphia” folder for my Philadelphia magazine column, and every other category just for general ideas and entertainment.

I usually give both a second sweep in the afternoon and again at night, and I sometimes refresh the “All Items” list to see the absolute latest news. A whole bunch of the biggest news stories of the past few years, I heard about that way.

I even have my favorite Twitter feeds and Google search terms bookmarked with RSS feeds, hard as Twitter and Google have made it to do so at this point. I try to make it a point of pride to get my unread post count down to zero at least once a day, but I don’t always accomplish that.

I keep hearing that RSS is dying, that most people now use Twitter and even Reddit the way they used to use their feeds, and that’s probably true. I’ve come to terms with the reality that I have a very specific way of consuming the Internet and doing my work, which it turns out has little in common with the way most people do it. But the groundswell of outrage from users of Google Reader in the last 24 hours shows that perhaps I’m not the only one after all.

I understand the economic realities at play here. Google can’t make money from Reader the way it wants to, the company’s heart isn’t really in it, and it’s clearly not the priority in Mountain View that, say, Google Plus is. I’m not in support of the petition drive to encourage Google to reconsider its decision, because I don’t want to consume a product that a company was essentially shamed into keeping in place.

I gather that there are various alternatives to Reader, and with the outcry from Reader fans to the news, I expect more to emerge. Perhaps some company will even establish an RSS reader that can monazite the technology in a way that Google never could. So I will use one of them, perhaps even FeedEachOther, which I actually used before I even got on Google Reader.

I’m certainly going to miss Google Reader, although I’m not convinced I won’t transition seamlessly into Feedly, The Old Reader, or one of the other ones. It’ll be an adjustment, but I think I’ll get used to it.

Now, if Instapaper ever goes away, then we’ll have a problem…



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