Three Reasons why Google Reader shutting down may not be such a bad thing


You may have heard that Google Reader is being phased out, and will be out of commission by July 1st. And although I like Google Reader and was disappointed to hear the news, there may be a silver lining. Here are three reasons why Google Reader’s imminent demise is not necessarily a bad thing.

1. Small developers can fill the void: Google (and gigantic corporations like it) don’t need to have a finger in every pie. Their exit leaves the space open for small developers and innovators. I say this not just to theorize, but with the belief that an unchecked, omnipresent, and all powerful Google is bad for the internet and bad for small players, even for a small website like mine.

It’s also a chance for me to research and compare the best free alternatives to Google Reader (coming soon).

2. A chance to weed out the 80% of feeds in your list that were just clutter. I know from personal experience that while I had more than 200 feeds in there, I didn’t actually read most of them. Worse yet, the sheer volume of information was too much to handle, such that I DIDN”T actually go in and check the feeds hardly at all.

Now that you’re going to export your OPML file and import it somewhere else, you have a change to (a) remove those RSS feeds that in hindsight you know were just clutter, that you never read, and (b) remove those sites that have shut down and no longer update their feeds (which, I was surprised to find, was a surprisingly large number).

Google Readers Departure may be a good thing
3. RSS will stay alive: while speculation for the shuttering of Google Reader center around their desire to give Google plus a boost in it’s place, RSS will stay alive. The reason? Sites like mine are eager to get their content out into circulation by any means, and fashionable aggregators like Flipboard and others will eagerly collect it and put it out.

Thoughts? Opinions? Reactions? Please share them in the comments section below.

  • RSS was a brilliant idea but a lot of people feel that Google Reader actually sopped it becoming more popular. The theory being that other people decided not to develop RSS readers as Google would always be the big player and so RSS never became that popular. I personally use the Live Bookmarks function of Firefox for the three RSS feeds I keep track of.

    As to point 1 of your post this is also why people are not happy about Opera dropping their own Presto engine and switching to Webkit. Having more engines out there means people are more likely to code to standards rather than for a particular engine. I remember the old days before Firefox and Chrome when a lot of websites were designed in IE and looked terrible in any standards compliant web browser. Now we face the possibility of people writing JavaScript and CSS for Webkit at the expense of Gecko and Trident.

  • Andrew

    I I DIDN”T actually go in and check the feeds hardly at all.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to say what people like you are stupid, or anything like that, but not using simple (Really Simple Syndication) and powerful technology is… For me, reading sites themselves daily is like going to bus to train to airport to plane to another continent to newsstand to buy a newspaper.

    • Except 99% of the time the RSS feed is a truncated version of the story and you still have to go to the site to get the full story anyway so might as well skip the middle man and just go to the site to check.

      • Andrew

        Personally, 60% of the time I don’t want to read full story, header is enough, and besides that there is Yahoo! Pipes, Feed43, and couple of extensions for browser for getting full story.

        And alternative is hitting F5 all day? Thank you very much, I have smart machine for manual labor.

        • Timed tab refresh 😉 Built in to Opera and an add on for Firefox. Although personally there is nothing I need to know the instant it happens unless it is work or family related in which case they can phone me. When I want to know the news I will read the news site, I don’t need to get the latest headlines as they happen and suspect nobody really does except journalists. Same with tech sites and blogs, there is nothing you need to know about instantly and visiting the site a couple of times a day is more than enough.

          • Andrew

            Well, if you reading only one site… 🙂

            • Hence the rest of my post explaining how I use sites/RSS.

    • Samer Kurdi

      “For me, reading sites themselves daily is like going to bus to train to airport to plane to another continent to newsstand to buy a newspaper” — Makes me appreciate my readers, who do come to the site, so much more. Thanks everyone 🙂

      Actually, this comment and thread is making me think that maybe I should stop publishing an RSS feed, since my livelihood depends on people visiting (which I know is contrary to what I said in #3 above).

      • PaxD75

        I think not publishing a feed would be a mistake. By the time I go through some news sources, 70 or so feeds, some subreddit (just to name a few places), I barely have time to for anything else. Feeds still guarantee that specific articles will see visitors (on a timely basis too).

  • Mark Pendragon

    Personally, I am ticked off at Google. I am a late adopter of tech because I like it to have the bugs ironed out and a stable environment. Which includes having confidence that the product will remain available whilst I still have a need for it.

    Not being an early adopter means I do not have an overwhelming desire to check out the latest shiny toy. It also means I will be able to resist ever using another Google product. First they get me hooked on the homepage and then yank it out from under me. And now the reader. Well, no more.

    Plus I dislike how every product feeds spy information about users back to advertisers. At least with independent sites it will not all be amalgamated into a comprehensive profile of your personality. That alone was not enough to shake my inertia. But now they are forcing me to migrate from yet another of their products, I will be watching keenly for your recommended alternatives, not just to the reader, but to any other product they bring out in the future. And then just hope that they do not buy it out, like YouTube!

    • Yes I try to limit what Google products I use. I’m screwed phone wise as I think Android is the best smartphone OS and I was forced to switch from Yahoo mail to Gmail by my hosts a good few years ago but for everything else I try to avoid them. I use DuckDuckGo for my searching where possible, Firefox for my web browser and have AdBlock Plus set up with their privacy filter so it blocks trackers as well as ads.

      I do think Chrome is a nice clean browser and it did help change the browser market for the better but it reminds me of the iPhone. A lot of whistles and bells but lacking in the basics.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Mark: I hear ya. Google Reader was a good product, and had become familiar.

  • gent

    I think you are slightly missing the point of the importance of Google Reader as a “service”.

    Almost all of the alternative software use a Reader account for synchronization. That is a much harder thing to replace than just software.

    The point was that with the Reader “service” on the back end you could use a desktop client of your choice or web app on the desktop, your favorite app on Android, your favorite app on iPhone, your favorite app on iPad etc. etc. and all your feeds and read/un-read items would be synced.

    Synchronization at the practical level it’s now will be much harder to get back to once Reader is gone.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ gent: actually, you’re right. I didn’t consider that aspect. Hopefully developers can work around it.

  • gent

    Oh and Samer I would say you personally need to prepare for the decreased viewership once Reader is gone.

    You are at a better position than non-tech blogs, but there will still be users who won’t bother to export their subscriptions to other RSS clients, and will just change their browsing experience once Reader is gone.

    I think many non-tech blogs will start scratching their heads once a portion of their readers disappear after Reader shuts down.

    • Samer Kurdi

      hmm. It’d be interesting to see if I will experience reduced viewership because of this. For some reason I am guessing (hoping?) that it probably will not.

      • PaxD75

        Which is a reason why sites need to be more proactive about syndication. Including a link with good RSS readers for various platforms on a single FAQ page both educate and stem the tide somewhat. In the early days of RSS, I use to see these kinds of FAQs a lot – that’s how I learned about RSS.

        I started off with an offline reader but eventually moved to GoogleReader. I’m back to offline mode for now via Opera’s built-in reader .

    • Samer Kurdi

      Thanks for the link Carbonize. I suppose my article will have to be something like “5 Google Reader replacements that you’ve never heard of”. Or perhaps I’ll try a feature by feature comparison.

  • Well, hard to disagree but it’s gonna take time for others to take over. Personally I am not sure whether they can handle the traffic – one can check it out right now… Most of the alternative platforms (e.g. newsblur or oldreader) cannot serve users only looking for an alternative – and what about regular usage of them? For sure they will develop their infrastructure but… Google Reader was not perfect but reliable and just accurate for everyday use. Thus, I will miss it…

  • “The truth is this: Google destroyed the RSS feed reader ecosystem with a subsidized product, stifling its competitors and killing innovation. It then neglected Google Reader itself for years, after it had effectively become the only player. Today it does further damage by buggering up the already beleaguered links between publishers and readers. It would have been better for the Internet if Reader had never been at all.”

    Google, destroyer of Ecosystems

    • Samer Kurdi

      Thanks for the link Paulo.

  • Aster

    I was sad upon hearing that Reader was shutting down, but it only took me two web searches and a few minutes on slammed and largely unresponsive sites to find an alternative (Feedly, fwiw, and yes, I know that they run off the Reader API, but evidently they are going to recreate it themselves and swear that the transition will be seamless, We shall see….)

    I agree, Samer, I totally support #1, did #2, and believe #3. There is nothing out there that replicates RSS for me. I’m one of those text-heavy people who does not want to READ everything on my feed and does not care for the “beautiful, magazine-style” interfaces that take an incredible amount of scrolling to browse through. I follow about 60 sites, most of them that update once or twice a week or less, and using an RSS reader is my way to follow them all in one place rather than having to remember who updates on Tuesdays, etc. I honestly don’t know how others manage to follow more than a few blogs and such without using RSS. Hitting up a huge folder-ful of sites each week when you’re not even sure you’re interested in what they’ve posted (or if they’ve posted at all) seems an incredible waste of time to me.

  • PaxD75

    Another positive: After moving my feeds to Opera’s built-in reader, I decided to take this opportunity to move to an email client (vs signing into Google’s Web Interface and staying logged in). This combination, hopefully, reduces the level of tracking and surveillance.

    Reader was probably the main reason I stayed logged into Google. Its’ departure now has me thinking about gmail alternatives too. I’ve always been a fan of Google but with their stance on Google +, forced social, forced cloud-services (no expansion on their android devices) and their all-encompassing methods of tracking – they’re chasing many users away.

  • Do consider Bamboo Feed Reader for the upcoming post. While most others are spread out across devices with fancy frills and so forth, this one (Firefox only) caters more to the minimalist sentiment, which I think some will appreciate.

  • ender

    i just want to say, I am following over 400 feeds, including yours, and if i did not have the possibility to scan through the headlines through feeds, and then decide, for which ones I want full text, and therefore go to the respective sites, I would skip most sites, again including yours, alltogether.
    rss feeds are about as important for me as emails, and that says something, gmail and greader are my powerhubs of usage.
    I am mainly online in my private time for information for myself, and occasionally contacting others. Thus I may have facebook, tweet and tumblr and a million other accounts, but I DO not share often, maybe once or twice a year. all the sharing options in greader did not interest me. Nowadays nearly all sites and blogs are eager for “sharing” i guess that the net economy now, so as the user that I am , i am not valuable for anyone, since I don’t like to share publicily . If I think, something is valuable for some person, I am old fashionly will copy/paste them the link. period.
    i guess, companies and certain blogs cannot really make money out of me, and if I am not reading them anymore, its not loss for them, only for me.
    sad, but I will have to live with it.

  • More people should try Mozilla Thunderbird also for RSS, not only email. You can choose to load the feed content or the entire origin html page.

    I have 8 email accounts and 30+ rss feeds categorized nicely into folders. I think it makes a lot of sense to have subscription posts (essentially mail) in the same app as your other mail. Also, checking email is a lot more fun since you know you’re bound to find something of interest 🙂

    • ender

      I dont know for US or for other countries, but here in Germany, my average peers (those around 25-35 yrs old) most of us, never started private email with a desktop application like thunderbird , when we started going online.
      Outlook i only use because its installed and used by everyone ,and in every office / company I have been.
      privately, me and all my friends, we started with webbased email, either,, yahoo, hotmail or later gmail, or other .
      so, no checking with thunderbird, and and desktop bound rss reader is not an option.
      I want to read and have my emails and feeds sync , whereever I have a browser, and net connection, and want to check in different places, office or home, whenever I am online.

  • Underseer

    Have downloaded my feeds from Google Takeout as xml just in case, then switched to Feedly, who claim they will migrate all my Google feeds when the time comes.

    We’ll see if they can pick up where Reader leaves off, but I’ve gotta say that so far I’m loving the magazine style look and feel, especially the ‘Today’ segment that keeps the eighty gazillion posts from Mashable from seeming overwhelming.