A few weeks back, Google announced that its Reader product was to be shut down; the reaction was instant and vitriolic, as we would expect from the internet community. Now, with hindsight, the reaction all seems a little silly.
‘How The Shutdown Of Google Reader Threatens The Internet‘ - Forbes, 14th March 2013
‘Like a Dagger to Bloggers’ Hearts, Google Just Killed Google Reader‘ - The Atlantic Wire, 13th March 2013
Headlines such as these remind us of the value of objectivity and reason – being reactionary, a trait that seems to manifest itself across the journalistic world, might drive page views (or newspaper sales), but it doesn’t necessarily help or inform anyone.
Here are four reasons why we should not get our proverbial knickers in a twist over the death of Google Reader.
1. There are plenty of alternatives
Reader is your favourite RSS aggregator, that’s fine. You’ve got a Google account and it all fits nicely together, that’s fine too. But if an RSS aggregator is that important to the way you work, there are many other alternatives: Mashable listed five in its article ‘RIP Google Reader’, including Feedly and Newsblur.
For those that make the move – not that you have any choice in the matter after the 1st July 2013 – it’s possible to export your feeds using Google Takeaway or through generating an OPML file. The OPML file is a standard format and is accepted by other RSS readers; here’s an example from Netvibes. For other services it’s even easier to transfer your data; adding your Google account to Feedly or Flipboard will automatically synchronise all your feeds from one service to the other.
2. Things have moved on
More importantly, although there are straight ‘apples for apples’ alternatives for Reader, there are a slew of new applications and services for interacting with RSS.
The most visible of these is Flipboard, a self-styled ‘Social Magazine’, which is created from a number of RSS feeds pulled together and displayed in a magazine format. It’s the format that really makes the difference here, moving away from text to a visually-rich experience with hi-definition imagery and print styling. It’s engaging and hooks into existing paradigms – books, magazines – to create a more compelling interface for news and information.
Even Google has got in on the act with Google Currents, a mobile-only application that works in a similar fashion to Flipboard. Summly – now purchased by Marissa Meyer’s Yahoo – is another strong product in the same space.
I’ve not included Twitter lists in this list, even though Mashable marked it as a candidate replacement application. For me they’re different: one is real-time, miss it and it’s gone, whilst RSS aggregators are archives, building slowly over time.
3. It’s not the death of RSS
Maybe I should have put this first, rather than third, as it seems as if the internet is equating the death of Reader with the death of RSS. But of course, it isn’t the death of RSS. All the products listed above use RSS to gather information – it’s just the way they display the information that changes from product to product.
For those of you worried that Google is in charge of everything related to the internet, from standards to connectivity and anything else you want to mention, they’re not. RSS will continue to live, and it will continue to be a brilliantly simple way of sharing data automatically between services, from Twitter feeds to blog posts.
4. For Google, it’s not a core product
Last of all, from Google’s perspective, Reader just isn’t a core product. When Larry Page took over the reins he was clear in his intention to strip away anything that was deemed non-critical. Some may argue that he hasn’t held to this completely - what with the driverless cars and Google Glasses still on the agenda – but there’s no doubt he has performed some spring cleaning.
The fact is that Google Reader does not add anything to search. It doesn’t provide contextual information like Google+, it just exists on the periphery. It’s user base may be loyal, but that’s no reason for a business to continue with a product.
All Things D technology reporter, Liz Gannes, also added that the issues around Reader’s shutdown may be linked to privacy and compliance, but this is unconfirmed by Google.
Google Reader – it doesn’t really matter after all
Google Reader may have been held dear by it’s power users, but I suspect – personally – that your average internet user will not mourn (or even be aware of) its passing. The internet is not static, it’s not the same even from hour to hour, and the way we interact with information will – and must – change with it.
For those that do want to stay with the “Reader experience”, they can still have it, but I will happily move on to something more visual, more interactive, and more engaging.