In a recent blog post about “spring cleaning” Google, rather slyly included a point that they’d be closing the RSS reading tool called Google Reader on July 1st, 2013. As you probably know from reading other articles here, I’m a big fan of the tool. In fact, it’s one of the only things I use and have running on a daily basis. When I heard the news that this was happening, I checked to see if it was April 1st (nope) and then sat stunned that Google would retire such an essential tool without alternatives. While Google isn’t offering it, I’m going to give you some alternatives to ease the sting of losing this great tool.
What has happened in the seven or so years of Google Reader’s existence has been an unprecedented shift. Before Reader, there were a wide array of tools to handle RSS from various diverse sites, and then, most of them were decimated by Google’s new tool. For the tools that stuck around, they would generally become conduits that used Google’s servers for the list of RSS feeds. Even today, new tools like the amazing Flipboard can still use Google’s Reader as a repository in the cloud for RSS feeds.
I have no doubt that the retirement of this tool will cause shock waves through almost every news reading tool. For many, their tool of choice will just stop working and they may wonder why. Google-owned the market, and now it seems they are poised to kill it. One wonders what this will do to the pervasiveness of RSS today. With many news sites struggling and creating paywalls, content (and RSS) may be much hard to get to in the not-to-distant future.
The bigger question seems to be the very nature of “retire”. Is Google going to offer up the source? Is Google going to shut the tool off completely? Are they going to integrate this into some other product and call it something else?
What may happen is them caving under massive pressure as MG Siegler humorously tweets:
Seriously though, my guess is that Google eventually reverses this decision when the weight of a million tech blogger descends upon them.
— M.G. Siegler (@mgsiegler) March 13, 2013
If you’ll want to continue using a tool that offers a similar feel to Google Reader after you have downloaded your feeds from Google Takeout, here is a list of what I’ve come across recently.
1. BazQux Reader – A good looking online reader that offers a 30-day trial. After the trial, you’ll pay between $9 and $29 annually. Importing is supported with the tool, as well as having it automatically do it for you. They support most of Google Reader’s keyboard shortcuts too. Slick.
3. NewsBlur – A nice online reader that only allows for 64 sites free. The tool looks very Google Reader-ish and supports importing. They seem to have a small population of users, so it will be interesting to see how this tool scales when things change.
4. 1kpl.us – An online reader that takes an interesting approach: Send you right into a demo so you can try it out. They seem to support keyboard shortcuts and folders.
5. Tiny Tiny RSS – If you’re looking to host your own RSS reading, Tiny Tiny is a PHP/MySQL/Apache solution that lets you do just that.
6. Local RSS Reader – A Chrome Extension hack of Google’s Reader that lets you run the tool locally looks to be an interesting and viable alternative (coupled with syncing in Chrome – this could be very useful). You can let the author know what you think on Reddit.
What’s Google’s Next Move?
This may be the most important question. It would be stupid to cut off so many users from a tool they use on a daily basis. For those who consume a great deal of information, they’ll need to find a tool that offers similar options. One interesting idea might be having your feed list (OPML file) sit on Dropbox in a public place and you simply use a tool to access and modify it.
What Google could do is offer us the ability to download the files needed to host the tool on our own servers. Not only would it allow for others to fork the code and do what Google should have done with it over the years, but the value of Google Reader won’t just wash away as another utility fades away into obscurity. Either that or we #OccupyGoogleReader.
1. There are some great answers over on Quora about the death of Google Reader, and more importantly, why.
2. News that popular site Digg is building a successor to Google Reader is welcome indeed. You can find out more details and add your thoughts here.