RIP Google Reader


Google Reader shut its doors today. I am one of the many who'll mourn it's closure, as it's a service I've used on a daily basis for many years.

For me it was the synchronisation that was the killer feature. I mostly used the web-based version, but I also have the Android client installed on my mobile and tablet. It was great to be able to fire up the client when I had a few minutes to kill (e.g. whilst on a train), knowing that I'd find a few interesting articles to read.

I track around 200 or so RSS feeds - mostly blogs, but also a few tech news sites. It served as the backend for Google Listen (Android podcast client), and up until Twitter's recent API change I used it to track a handful of Twitter searches (a very simple way of monitoring Twitter for certain phrases or URLs). I even used it to 'follow' some Twitter accounts, via. a Yahoo Pipes filter, for people who post links in such high volume that they would drown out all the other people I follow if I was to follow them via. my normal Twitter client.

The reason Google gave for its shutdown was a decline in usage, and their attempt to focus on fewer products. I certainly get a lot of my info these days via. Twitter and social bookmarking sites, but RSS is still the primary source for me. And as for focus, to quote a Hacker News comment:

"Yeah, Reader held back the development of the robot car, glasses, floating balloon internet and the brazilian social site..."

Whatever the real reason is, I find it strange that Google didn't try and at least gently steer the Reader refugees towards one of their other products. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to have some sort of 'follow' feature on Google+ that allows you to track an RSS feed (which could later be claimed by an individual or company as part of their profile). G+ already has the link sharing and comment features, and the recently introduced auto-tagging is pretty impressive, and would work nicely for auto-discovery.

As for the Reader alternatives, I tried Feedly for a week or two after Google's announcement in March. It's a nice product, but something about it didn't quite sit right with me. More recently I looked at The Old Reader and Yoleo Reader, which look like decent enough Google Reader clones, but I'm a little wary of signing up to one of the new upstarts. For now I've installed Tiny Tiny RSS. It's open source and self-hosted (so no risk of that disappearing), and fairly similar feature-wise to Google Reader with a couple of nice extras. I figure I'll stick with that for the next six months or so and then take another look at the alternatives and see if any of them have evolved into something special.

But Google Reader, you will be missed.

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