Why I don’t want to lose Google Reader

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I just left a comment on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog Websites of the Day, in response to a post called The Best Alternatives To Google Reader Now That It’s Being Shut Down. As the title suggests, after Google dropped the bombshell today about closing down Google Reader, Larry was very helpfully suggesting some alternatives. And they are good suggestions of course, but I think this decision to shut down Reader is more far-reaching than just finding an alternative tool.

Anyway, I left quite a long comment on the post with a few ideas that were on my mind, so I thought I’d crosspost it here as well, just in case it helps stimulate further discussion.  But please do go visit Larry’s original post…

Larry,

I agree with you… I’m deeply disappointed that Google is shutting down Reader. And as good as these suggestions for alternatives are, I suspect most of them will be fairly poor replacements for Reader…

a) Reader is a part of the Google suite of tools. When I’m logged into Gmail all day, have my Calendar and Drive open, regularly connecting to YouTube or Maps or Blogger, then the convenience of having Reader as part of that suite is huge. In a school situation, running Google Apps for Education, the fact that it’s just a built-in part of the environment you work in is hugely powerful. Single sign on. One click, boom, you’re there. Alternatives will break that convenience.

b) Reader is not just a website, it’s a whole RSS management engine. Most of the ways I consume the RSS feeds in Reader don’t actually involve me going to reader.google.com. Instead, they are picked up by Flipboard, River of News, or some other service. I have feeds that act as triggers for cron jobs. I have feeds that do all sorts of things and end up on all sorts of other services and devices, and the reason I can do this is because the Reader API is so open and ubiquitous. When I open FlipBoard I see an option to automatically grab the feeds from Reader… I don’t see any other options there for Bloglines or Feedly or Newsblur. I may be able to set that up manually, I don’t know I haven’t looked, but these other tools don’t have anywhere near the ubiquity of the Reader API.

c) I think your fears about losing Feedburner are well founded. I’m concerned about that too.

d) Like many bloggers, I’ve gradually built up a readership through people subscribing to my blog. While I don’t suppose that all of them subscribe using Reader, I’m sure many do. I’ll be expecting to see my blog readership numbers fall through the floor when Reader gets turned off. I think the same will happen to many others.

e)Ooverall, I’m just disappointed that Google would even consider doing this. As an enthusiastic Google user, Google Certified Teacher, and Google Apps Certified Trainer, it makes me annoyed and embarrassed that Google would kill off a product that so many people clearly care deeply about. Reader may not be sexy and shiny like Google+ but it’s hugely powerful and has an huge following. To see the #Reader hashtag push the #pope hashtag from the top spot today certainly makes me wonder how they can claim that “hardly anyone uses Reader”. I’m hoping they will listen to the people and reverse this decision, much like they did recently with Calendar Appointment Slots. Google CAN show they listen to what people want. I just hope they do it this time as well.

d) I get that Reader is a free service. I get that Google has the right to do whatever the hell it wants with it. But to give it to us and then suddenly take it away feels like bait and switch to me. It makes me question what else might get taken away some day. And it makes me feel much less like I can rely on, or trust, Google.

e) I’d even offer to pay an annual fee for Reader, but that hasn’t even been offered as an option. Not now, not in the past.

It’s all just very disappointing.

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6 thoughts on “Why I don’t want to lose Google Reader

    • Couldn’t have put it better, Chris, but that hasn’t stopped me posting on G+ and in the GCT forums where there is understandable consternation and not a little anger. This seems a cavalier decision.

      Like you, it’s not the ‘Reader as a place to read blogs’ functionality I will miss – hardly ever go there, to be honest – so much as the ‘Reader as an RSS engine’ functionality, which is central to so much I do. Like you, I live in a Google Apps world and the idea of having to leave that for something performing such a central role to my working routine is annoying, frustrating and tiresome – and perhaps a bit scary, too.

      Keep on shouting it from the rooftops, and let’s hope they’re listening!

  1. Chris,

    I had been using RSS for many years. Note that I didn’t say reader but RSS. I was a long time user of NetNewsWire. I used the NNW app for my iPhone, the NNW site on my MBP, and Win boxes. Then it died for financial reasons. They needed to pivot their company and approach the corporate world in a different way, but what mattered at that time was the feed management portion of NNW went away. I then turned to Google to provide that “management” tool, while frankly, I searched for a multiplatform reader. I could have managed those feeds in a number of pc based ways, but I wanted a cloud based solution that would reach multiple platforms. So while I can say I “used” Google reader, I didn’t. I hated it. It was bland, slow and cumbersome, and didn’t share well. So, I found myself always looking for ways to connect to the management piece in reader. Also, don’t forget you could at one time not only “star”, but share a reader feed… that died a bit ago. i relate all of this to say I loved RSS overall. That is up to about 2 years ago. What was the impetus for the shift? Guess…

    The iPad and a multitude of avenues to gather and review information. But these new tools did something that reader didn’t. Discovery. While reader was good for gathering a ton of information (often to the overwhelm – following a couple hundred feeds or more was you can guess). That said, it could still be limiting. Drinking the same cool-aide all the time breeds a set of blinders to new… Honestly, I think (and posted about this when Google launched Currents) Google saw this as well. Current was not only a push to get into the personalized magazine format to challenge the Flipboards and Zites out there, but it was a march down the road that Google Now was going to be joining as well. Information is changing, thoughts are changing, awareness is changing, yet RSS was not. An individuals additions to Reader (I do understand the techie side to many of us will push back on this point) were not, and if they were it was a slow process.

    As apps like Flipboard and Zite have taken shape dipping into an individuals interests, trying to understand frequency and desires, influencing future and established information groups like News360, ABC, CNN, and the BBC with personalization, the reach of Reader behind its current audience stagnated, and even it’s current audience with folks like me began to dwindle. Having apps that can bring me news, stories, information, blog posts, that I am interested in (just like my RSS reader did) but also bring me similar content, and some that stretches to latest headlines, off topic, deep reach into additional aspects of what I am reading to provide enhancing information, and topics that I didn’t think to search for is intoxicating. Then a quick swipe “trains” these apps to provide more information on those lines while tuning and stretching my future experiences… Like Spotify and Pandora have for audio… The values of RSS and reader drops quickly.

    I do agree with your comments about the Google ecosystem, but I disagree that this was sudden or a bait and switch. The shift to the semantic web has been years in the making. Think about apps like Waze… Providing crowd sourced traffic, accident, and other navigation information as people need them. Google Now and Glass to get technology out of your way while also blending it more seamlessly into your life. Apps like Tempo which aggregate your multitude of calendars and blends them with information from your contacts, emails, location data and social network data from FB, LinkedIn to provide as much information about a meeting and who you be meeting with as well as previous interactions to have as rounded a view as possible before walking into a meeting…

  2. Sorry, the length of my last comment was bogging WP…

    The field of information is changing and Google currently appears to be reviewing and cutting ties to “the old ways” that were more about fixed, passive, information and content to make way for predictive discovery… I’ll leave you with this. Google Maps have been one of the most integral products for the mobile platform. Think of the backlash when Apple dropped GM, and how it appeared many rejoiced (10 mil or so in the first couple of days) when Google pushed out the new Maps app to iOS. Frankly, one that outperforms the Android version. Ask this question. If Google did not believe that the very nature of information and how people use information. Why would they re-organize the Maps Group under the Search group?

    Scott

    • Scott, thanks for your comments.

      At the end of the day, we will all survive without Reader. There are alternatives like Feedly and Newsblur that I’m sure will be perfectly adequate. So point taken on that. Mind you, I really liked having Reader rolled into my single Google sign on, and being part of my Apps account at school, but I guess I can live with another login to yet another external service.

      Your points about discovery of new content are very valid, but they presume a certain way of consuming the Internet. I use Google+, Facebook and Twitter a lot, so I “get” that serendipitous view of data streams and the idea of discovery. I really do. But Reader fulfills a different need to me. Despite the fact that Reader may not be easily providing discoverability of new and interesting content, there ARE some sites and places on the web that I very specifically want to follow. There are certain blogs and other news sources that I want to know about that would quickly vanish into the firehose of the “discoverable stream”. There are some sources where I want to see everything, not just what I happen to catch. I could jerry-rig a system of tags and stars and +1s and Likes to try and makes sure that I filter up the important stuff, but I already have a tool that does a perfectly good job of that, and it’s called Reader.

      Here’s an example… I use blogs with my students and I have subscribe lists set up for each class so that I can very easily monitor for new posts. When I see new posts appear I can very quickly respond with comments and feedback. I’m not interested in discoverablity in this context. I just want to be notified of what’s new in the few things that are relevant to me.

      I’ve been seeing articles in the last few hours positing that Google is going to somehow integrate the similar sort of functionality that Reader offered into Google+. If that’s true, and I suspect it is, then why kill Reader before there is a replacement? Why would Google want to send the RSS faithful off on a pilgrimage to find a replacement tool if they ultimately want them to come back to Google+ when the Reader replacement is ready for prime time. It seems like a stupid strategy to me.

      The other aspect of the Plusification of Reader, is that in a school setting using Google Apps for Education we do not currently offer Google+ to students for a whole lot of reasons. Whether we decide to turn that feature on in future is undecided, but right now it opens too many potential issues, not least of which is that students under 13 cannot use it legally. So if Reader rolls into Google+ as a viable alternative, that’s great, but we won’t be able to use it.

      I have no problem with a shift to the semantic web, and yes, we’ve all seen that coming. But I just don’t understand why this needs to be an either/or proposition. Reader serves an entirely different purpose to that of the social, semantic web.

      I just think this whole thing is a big mistake.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?