Google Reader will soon be no more. And then there was maniacal laughter and the rending of garments around the blogo-tech-nerdo-sphere.
I sympathize. Google Reader was at the center of my reading and information gorging universe from the time I dumped Bloglines (I can’t even remember how long ago) to just last year.
When Google gutted the sharing features from Reader some years ago (remember those awesome “Shared Item Pages”?) I predicted it was the beginning of the end. When the Google+ options for sharing appeared I knew the end was near. That was when I seriously started investigating and finally moving almost completely to different applications (more on that another time).
Using RSS and ATOM feeds to read content has always been an activity confined largely to the somewhat geeky to power user end of the spectrum. I’m far less concerned about the loss of an app to read feeds than I am what this might mean in two other related areas.
The future of feeds…I have to see this as an artifact of the fact that social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ is effectively replacing a significant part of the potential user base for web feeds and, related. Power users see all the limitations of these mechanisms, but for most people RSS reading using a reader is the solution to a problem they don’t have.
The future of FeedBurner, which will be much harder to replace (for me, anyway)…why keep around a system that eases the administration, enhancement and statistical tracking of feeds after dismissing the consumer need for those same feeds? I’ve worried about the fate of FeedBurner for more than a year. The demise of Reader is the penultimate nail in FeedBurner’s coffin.
Most people still don’t even know about RSS, much less want to hassle with a reader when they can see announcements of the latest articles and blog entries in their Facebook and Twitter streams. Informavores may not like it, but that’s the way most people operate. Google and Facebook and Twitter aren’t charities. They don’t exist to provide the highest quality products. They exist to sell sell sell, and when the market for Google Reader proved to be too small (and the data not useful enough to warrant being mined)…well, that was all she wrote.
If I were building up a new media property, I wouldn’t bother with RSS unless it were a very simple addition…it’s just not worth the time. If I operated an existing property, I wouldn’t spend much in the way of time or resources keeping feeds working for that relatively small audience that are, by virtue of using the feeds, likely missing some of the advertising and who aren’t going to stop reading the work on my site anyway.
Which isn’t to say feeds aren’t useful. They are particularly useful in ways that have nothing to do with direct reading…to achieve some interoperability between applications such as using plugins to pull data between blogs, and a simple data source for re-displaying and munging information. But most of these needs are being met through simple APIs for the gearheads and through Twitter and the like for the herd.
So, while I agree with the sentiment that, thanks to Google pulling Reader’s plug, we’ll see all kinds of attention being paid to improving existing alternatives and possibly even some innovative new approaches to feed reading unveiled–market forces at work–I’m not sure how much it ultimately matters if there are fewer and fewer feeds to read in the first place.