Started in 2005, Google Reader quickly established itself as the de facto RSS reader of choice for the World Wide Web. As one of the first few examples of web application connectivity, your Gmail account was connected to your Google Reader account. Not only did this make switching between the two painless, it also allowed them to interact with each other and with other services in ways that other RSS services could not match.
Google recently announced that they would be officially ending Google Reader this coming July 1, 2013 (links here and here). The reactions to the pending closure have been varied but intense, ironically making Reader a trending topic on social networks like Twitter and Google Reader. As of this writing, a big deal of the firestorm has died down, but it’s still a very relevant topic, and will continue to do so for the months leading up to July.
As a quick roundup, this is what people are saying about the end of Google Reader:
1) RSS readers are outdated.
Under this thread of thought, usage of RSS readers has been on the decline for several years now. In connection to a perceived declining relevance of blogs, RSS has become an irrelevant delivery platform for blog updates compared to posting on social networks, or push notifications on mobile apps.
2) Google Reader users became complacent.
This is an interesting perspective since it faults the loyal Google Reader fanbase for having stuck with the service for so long. Some commenters suggest this is a call to clean up online habits, not follow and read so many things. Most have pointed to the many other RSS readers out there, and some initiatives have sprouted that pledge to replicate Reader as it originally was. Among alternative RSS readers, Feedly has seen the most benefits, quickly rising to be the top app of the last week.
3) Google is ending Reader so that more people would make use of Google Plus.
This is corroborated by one former Googler involved with Reader. He says it was highly likely that current Google Reader staff has simply been moved to other more pressing projects. If we were to be harsh, we could say that Google placed their own self interest above their consumer’s needs in closing Google Reader.
4) Google Reader is a vital service that needs to survive.
There are actually a few compelling arguments to this. Obviously, many longtime users were angered by the announcement, and questioning if everything Google is saying is above the level.
However, if we take that out of the equation, Google Reader is still needed by people who rely on Google services. Because of the way Reader has been built around open standards, it’s been embraced by the online community as a valuable tool. One particularly compelling argument has sprung up from Iran, where many users attest that Google Reader is one of the ways Iranians evade government censorship. Aside from this, however, it could also be the end of many publishers, who can’t compete in social and depend on RSS for their content to thrive.
For the moment, the Google Reader story has died down, as other news stories divide our attention. Google has given us a generous four months to prepare, and the conversation continues. The Change.org petition itself continues to earn signatures. Therefore, you can expect this to become a major story again in the near future. Perhaps sooner than that, if Google makes another related announcement or decision.
We won’t be providing prescriptive advice or discussing what can be learned from this incident, because to be honest, this continues to be a developing story. However, we do think you should care if Google Reader is closing or not, whether you use it or not.
We’ve collected and will continue to collect stories, tweets and article on Google Reader on our Storify, which we’re sharing below. We ask that you go through the articles and share your thoughts with us on this topic. You can comment below, or tweet us at @thirdteamph or post at our Facebook page. Let us know as well if you have articles you want us to add to our Storify, between now and the actual closure. Thanks!
You can click over to our Storify article here.