Google Reader has been one of the staples of my online life for years, and I’ll miss it after it slips away into the ether of cyberspace past on July 1.
I’ve found many uses for Google Reader, a Web-based RSS organizer, over the years. When I was searching for an apartment, I organized search-based RSS feeds of Craigslist and Kijiji results and grouped them all into one folder in Reader so I could see all the good apartment listings in one place. To help my staff writers at ITBusiness.ca track industry news, I organized RSS feeds of key blogs and mainstream publications into different folders and shared it with the “bundles” feature. I even used it serve up a list of the free stuff that people were giving away nearby my apartment.
Reader is such a useful tool to me that I sort of feel like Google owes me some answers as to why it’s being discontinued. In a post on Quora, former Google Reader project manager Brian Shih provides some.
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Reader has long been under threat of being cut, he reveals. In 2008, it was to pay build OpenSocial, in 2009 to build now-defunct Buzz, and in 2010 to build Google+.
“It turns out they decided to kill it anyway in 2010, even though most of the engineers opted against joining G+. Ironically, I think the reason Google always wanted to pull the Reader team off to build these other social products was that the Reader team actually understood social (and tried a lot of experiments over the years that informed the larger social features at the company),” he writes. “Reader’s social features also evolved very organically in response to users, instead of being designed top-down like some of Google’s other efforts.”
Personally, to hear that a tool I found very useful (Reader) was killed to focus on a product I use only because I feel like I should be there (Google+) but don’t really feel compelled to visit regularly is disappointing. While Shih left Google in 2011 and the post is just his own speculation, it is sound. Google is betting that socially-driven content aggregation is going to be more popular than feed-based and is placing its egghead developers in that basket. They’re probably right, and I’m a big fan of socially-driven content discovery too.
Besides, I can’t get all bitter and bemoan the loss of Google Reader forever, that’d totally bum out my friends. Plus, they say the best way to get over your old RSS reader is to get under a new one as fast as possible.
Lifehacker has a list of five of the best Reader alternatives and they single out Feedly as the best one, as chosen by its readers. The news suggestion algorithm and options like sharing and saving for future reading seem to put it over the top.
This could be the start of a beautiful new relationship.