Inventor of RSS Says Good Riddance To Google Reader, Worries About Google's Influence On News

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News Posted: Sat, Mar 16 2013 3:38 PM

As a long-time Google Reader user (six years), it saddened me earlier this week when Google announced that it was going to shutter the service on July 1. For me, I didn't only use Reader because I was too lazy to look at alternatives - I used it because of its simplicity, speed and ability to give me an actual list of posts - not tiles, not smart pages, not "social magazines". That, along with its ability to sync through my Google account made the service perfect for me.

It wasn't until Google's decision to close Reader that I realized that there were so many others like me who simply loved what it offered. Sure, it wasn't perfect - no service is. But a petition with 117,000+ signees proves that it had quite the following, and that many are upset by Google's seemingly hasty decision.

There's one person who's indifferent to Reader's closing though - Dave Winer, the co-creator of the original RSS spec. "Never used the damn thing." is his initial response, leading me to believe that his opinion matters very little. It's easy to discredit the closing of a service that you never used. I never touched iGoogle, but I didn't make it a point to let people know how little I cared when it disappeared.

He goes on, "Didn't trust the idea of a big company like Google's interests being so aligned with mine that I could trust them to get all my news."

That statement makes little sense. Google Reader was merely an RSS reader; it took your feeds, and spit out the results. It didn't filter anything - that's not the point of an RSS reader. In this case, Google's interests align with nothing, which is actually the likely reason that Google has no interest in it anymore. Instead, it'd rather you use a service like Google Currents, Google News and of course, Google+.

Yet another bizarre statement: "The thing to fear is that Google intends to control the news people can subscribe to..." - this might make sense if you choose to use Google for your news needs. Facebook and Twitter are no different - both companies can quite literally control what you see, and what you don't.

Finally, Winer also states, "people will be well-served by a newly revitalized market for RSS products". That comes as a surprise to me, as the market never felt lacking in this regard. Pulse, Flipboard, Feedly, Currents, The Old Reader, NewsBlur and NetVibes are a handful of great solutions that have been out for a while.

Regardless of what Mr. Winer says, I'm still sad to see Reader go, but I've become pretty acclimated to Feedly this past week and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great RSS replacement.

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Winer? Read whiner, amirght?

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RWilliams replied on Sun, Mar 17 2013 1:26 AM

I wasn't going to say it but... :P

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yenic replied on Sun, Mar 17 2013 4:10 PM

Is this an article reporting the news, or an opinion article on a man's opinion? Seems like soapboxing more than reporting. I've been using RSS toolbar feeds in FF since the early 2000's, and never saw a reason to switch to anything else for my uses.

Non-profit, non-single sourced and open source at that is the only way to go. The guy with some credibility here (creator of RSS) has a good point, do you want to hand the keys over to a corporation for news syndication? Or anything for that matter, if you can help it?

I don't, I get my headlines from my HotHardware RSS toolbar feed directly with no middleware other than FF itself.

It was bound to end up this way, or morph into a way to make Google money. They likely just couldn't find a good way to do so, while making a profit off it, and not ruining it.

Down with Google, down with Chrome, and good riddance to Google Reader (I'd just as easy say this about any for-profit company, they aren't loyal to you so no reason to be loyal to them).

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RWilliams replied on Sun, Mar 17 2013 5:34 PM

"Is this an article reporting the news, or an opinion article on a man's opinion?"

I had different intentions when I decided to tackle this story. It wasn't until I finally read everything Winer said that I ended up changing the way I handled it.

"I don't, I get my headlines from my HotHardware RSS toolbar feed directly with no middleware other than FF itself."

Your solution is a good one, but it's not for me, and it's not for a lot of other people. I used Reader because it was simple, and I could access the same thing from any computer, easily. I could then continue using it on my phone.

The latter ability is the reason I don't use a stand-alone RSS reader like I used to. I need interoperability between desktop and mobile, and Reader was superb in that regard. I am quickly beginning to like Feedly, though.

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yenic replied on Mon, Mar 18 2013 12:28 AM

I use FF for Android, but never use my GS3 enough to see if it supports bookmark RSS. I don't think it does. I so infrequently use my phone for reading (or much of anything really) that it's not a big loss to me. I find something to entertain me while I'm on the train (or in the bathroom where 90% of my smartphone usage happens), and end up using Opera Mini all the time due to the compression allowing pages to load in poor coverage areas (while underground) where other mobile browsers fail.

I'm not crazy about smartphones due to my lack of personal need for it (it acts as a pager for my job and gives me access to my corp email, but it does come in pretty handy at times), and I'm anti-tablet as I can't stand touching glass for too long. I'm stuck in web habits from circa-2001 (and I'm kind of glad).. with other habits stemming from the 90's still (you'll find me more on IRC than Twitter or Facebook).

Just prefer a laptop or desktop, and have no problem waiting till I get to one of those for the majority of my computing so mobile RSS hasn't been an issue for me.

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RWilliams replied on Mon, Mar 18 2013 4:27 PM

"or in the bathroom where 90% of my smartphone usage happens"

Haha!

I prefer the desktop much more than mobile, but I am forced to use mobile a lot. I like Firefox mobile, but I don't like Firefox desktop, and vice versa, I am not crazy about Chrome mobile but love Chrome desktop (well, "love" is a bit strong). If I used FF on the desktop and it had the ability to sync my RSS, that's a solution I'd probably use, but in my previous experience, RSS in Firefox felt really barebones. Dedicated apps are so much better. I used Thunderbird for a time with RSS also and didn't care too much for that.

Sounds like we're on the same page though. I'm a desktop guy through and through, so it almost pains me to see it as a dying breed with mobile engulfing most of our lives.

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digitaldd replied on Tue, Mar 19 2013 8:45 AM

Funny thing about Google Reader going down, most of the web based RSS readers utilize Google reader as their back end. Feedly which seems to be the most popular alternative couldn't keep online with all the extra new users joining up over the past week.

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