Sometimes, checking your news reader before you hit the sack is an error. Last night was one such night - because I flipped through articles to find that Google is killing off Google Reader.
For many of you, this will mean little or nothing. But for many prolific bloggers and information workers, this is a disaster. An RSS reader - a piece of software that subscribes to feeds of information from websites - is the only efficient way to monitor a range of topics online. You don't need to visit each site individually, just spend some time in your feedreader. It's not a technology that ever hot the mainstream - which is one reason that Google dumping it. But the noise will be disproportionate, because so many people who write and create for the internet will be affected by this. Google Reader is a niche tool, but an incredibly important one for those who use it.
What really rankles, though, is that Google killed off an ecosystem when they launched Reader. In the mid-2000s, there were a whole range of RSS readers available, but Google's own offering became the default over time, because it was so tied into the rest of the Google ecosystem. Google's free product left no financial oxygen for other, commercial offering, and they withered and died.
The recent rise in RSS readers on iOS in particular looks like innovation and diversity is back in the ecosystem - but this is largely an illusion. Pretty much all of these apps are just interfaces to Google Reader, and are dependent on it for feed management and, crucially, syncing between devices. One developer has made it plain that his app isn't going away just because the underlying mechanism is:
Don't worry, Reeder won't die with Google Reader.-- Reeder (@reederapp) March 14, 2013
I wonder how many others will survive? My preferred desktop client - Caffienated - is going stand-alone, which means I need a new app, that does have some form of syncing built-in.
In the meantime, though, RSS reading is important enough to me that I'm already making preparations. So far:
- I've reinstalled Fever on my web server. It's a self-hosted RSS reader, that does some nice analysis to show you what the most popular links amongst your feeds are. It syncs with the iPhone version of Reeder - and if that ability comes to the iPad and Mac version of the software, I have my solution.
- I've added my Reader account to Flipboard, so those subscriptions won't be lost when Reader goes away.
- I've installed Feedly, and added my Google Reader details, so they'll be transferred when they get their replacement API up and going.
My City colleague Paul Bradshaw is crowd-sourcing a list of potential Google Reader alternatives.
(Yes, there's a "Hitler discovers..."/Downfall video parody)