Why the Google Reader shutdown matters
Google | Forbes
Google's announcment that it will shut down its RSS aggregator Google Reader in July triggered a wave of grave-dancing on Twitter Wednesday night:
I know a lot of people are upset about Google Reader shutting down -- I would have been a couple of years ago, but I haven't used it in ages
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) March 14, 2013
Hey you guys looking for a Google Reader alternative? IT'S CALLED TWITTER AND IT WORKS JUST FINE. — Andy Boyle (@andymboyle) March 14, 2013
Seriously though, how the hell am I going to read all those RSS feeds I never check now?
— MG Siegler (@parislemon) March 14, 2013
The glee people showed toward the demise of a product they don't use is actually a great argument for why Reader matters: While Twitter's a great window into the brains and reading lists of smart people the world over, news from smaller outlets or people with less pungent viewpoints has a harder time fighting to the surface.
Since so many journalists' jobs depend on how they process the information gushing toward them, the question of how one consumes information is an increasingly intimate one. But as Alex Kantrowitz writes, the execution order is a reminder that "we are still just the users, nothing more."
No matter how much work we put in to optimize our online presences, our tools and our experiences, we are still at the mercy of big companies controlling the platforms we operate on. When they don’t like what’s happening, even if we do, they can make whatever call they want. And Wednesday night, Google made theirs.
Google killed most of Reader's social features in 2011, a decision that outraged people who used it as a quiet social network (the fact that they called themselves "sharebros" probably didn't help their cause). It left Reader's core function -- organizing news from all over the place -- intact. A big issue is that many people see no viable alternative to Reader. Instapaper founder Marco Arment says "in the long run, trust me: this is excellent news":
We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.
But that's only great news if you don't agree that the service was already pretty much perfect.
Google Reader emotion cycle: confusion, denial, anger, fury, despair, acceptance, hope, contemplation, fury
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) March 14, 2013
Dear @googlereader, I promise to use google+ (gack! gack!) if you give googlereader a reprieve.
— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) March 14, 2013
You knew it was coming: Here's the "Downfall" version of Google Reader's death.
More: Google Reader lived on borrowed time: creator Chris Wetherell reflects (GigaOm) | Former Google Reader product manager confirms our suspicions: Its demise is all about Google+ (TNW) | Google Reader is dying, but we have five worthy alternatives (CNET) | Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives (Lifehacker) | Google Reader, please don’t go — I need you to do my job (Paid Content) | Paul Bradshaw's spreadsheet comparing Reader alternatives