In case you missed it, Google announced this week that it will be shutting down its Reader service July 1. Reader, for those who don’t use it, is essentially a tool for finding, tracking, organizing and archiving online content. Following the announcement there was a great gnashing of teeth in the online community – including the online science community.
This is clearly a service that many love using and, in many cases, rely on. I don’t use Google Reader myself, so don’t feel I’m the right person to eulogize Reader, castigate Google or prognosticate about what service will replace Google Reader. So I turned to Twitter, and found a volunteer in Rachel Kaufman.
Kaufman is a freelance writer who has been published in the Washington Post and Scientific American, among other outlets. And she is not happy about Reader’s impending demise. I’ll let her take it from here.
The news that Google was killing Reader still hasn’t really hit me. I’m actually finding it tough to believe that a product I’ve used for eight years is just…going away.
Everyone says that Reader can be replaced. Well, maybe so. But I’m certainly not going to replace RSS reading with Twitter, as many have suggested. Twitter is great at showing you what’s going on right now; it’s not as great at storing articles for as long as it takes for me to get to them. Which can be a while.
There are certainly other RSS clients that could replace Reader. I don’t like any of them, but that could be because I’m shocked and grumpy today.
It’s worth noting that the loss of Reader may impact a number of people who don’t even know they rely on it. Reader powers a ton of other services, including Flipboard, Reeder and Feedly – which is one of the services people are recommending as an alternative. (Feedly says it plans to start using a clone of the Google Reader API – the interface that lets these services run on Reader – so that current Feedly users won’t notice any bumps in the transition. The site has also published a list of tips aimed at helping Google Reader users make Feedly look and work as much like Reader as possible. I appreciate that.)
Even if you don’t care about the third-party services that used the Reader API, think about this: there were tons of ways Reader integrated with the greater Google ecosystem that were both convenient and useful. Did you know, for example, that you could create an RSS feed of a Google News saved search and add it directly to Reader? Did you know you could do the same with Google Alerts? Did you know you could tag articles in Reader and then tell Google to export a new feed based on that tag? These things can surely be duplicated across other services, but not as easily nor as seamlessly as a Google-to-Google connection.
I spent more time than I really wanted to today experimenting with possible Reader replacements. (I know, I know, I have a few months—but I’m scared!) Feedly does seem the most promising, especially after following the guidelines to mimic Reader’s UI, but I haven’t had a chance to test out its mobile app yet – and that may be the dealbreaker for me. NewsBlur strikes me as a great way to casually consume content, but not to systematically devour it the way my job requires. Ditto for Flipboard. It’s pretty, but I don’t want pretty. I want spare and functional. HiveMined sounds fantastic, but it’s only “coming soon” from one dude with a full-time job. Not something I want to put my trust in.
Google apparently decided to shut down Reader because Reader’s user base is declining. I’m sure they were also having trouble figuring out why they were keeping a service running that wasn’t monetized. So throw some ads on. I don’t care. I’d even pay a nominal fee to keep Reader running.
This is just the way of the ‘net, of course. Nobody was paying Google directly for the use of Reader; it was just a free cloud-based product and thus can be killed off at any time. We all forgot that, because it stuck around for eight years and it did what it did very efficiently. Now I’ve got eight years of Reader habits to break and new habits to learn because I forgot that a corporation like Google doesn’t care about me.