In another round of Spring Cleaning, Google announced today that Google Reader will be retired on July 1st, 2013 and a number of other services will also be shuttered. Apps Script’s GUI Builder, and five UiApp widgets, CalDAV API, Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect, Google Voice App for Blackberry, Search API for Shopping, and Snapseed Desktop for Macintosh and Windows were all listed for closure in today’s announcement.
RSS feeds, as I covered in my RSS Feed Basics and Advanced RSS articles, allow a person a very simple format to keep up with a website and the content that is produced. Instead of having to remember to visit a website regularly to see if there is new content, you can rely on its RSS feed to be automatically updated to stay current. An RSS feed reader is just the interface to view and organize those feeds.
There are a few interesting topics to take on the quick retirement of Google Reader. For one thing, it should not be a surprise. Google has been in a spring cleaning frenzy since 2011. It seems they wish to streamline the company and reduce the number of products they offer. Unfortunately, their ecosystem has been one of the things that makes them great. On the topic of ecosystems, the real shame of losing Google Reader is that it has run other applications and services like Bloglines out of the market and kept new ones from entering.
The official Google Reader blog apologized in a blog post today that devoted followers will be sad to see it go and they too will be sad. They blame declining usage of Google Reader as the reason the product should be retired in addition to the company’s attempt to focus on fewer products. While content updates have found more favor in Twitter, Facebook, and other social media venues, Google is far from blameless in that regard. The product is used less because Google’s update back in October 2011 to include Google+ design made Google Reader less useful. Users of Google Reader were very verbal of their dislike for the changes and the loss of functionality yet Google made no accommodations to compromise despite over 13,000 signatures to a petition. I say this was inevitable:
Google’s desire to focus may be entirely business-oriented, they haven’t been entirely forward on that since Larry Page returned to CEO replacing Eric Schmidt. The fact that Google can remain actively developing Google+ while a product like Google Reader with an established user base is canned with 3 months eviction notice does tell a bit about their motivations. If the reasons are purely for financial gains, what is the next Google product that we should fear losing? Gmail? FeedBurner? FeedBurner APIs were deprecated May 26th, 2011 and shut down October 20th, 2012. They have had no development to FeedBurner in years and they removed the ability to place Google AdSense ads in FeedBurner feeds in December 2012.
We’re contacting you because you’ve enabled AdSense for feeds in your AdSense account. After carefully evaluating the product, we’ve decided to retire AdSense for feeds.
Starting December 3, 2012, we’ll discontinue serving ads via AdSense for feeds on RSS feeds and you’ll no longer see feed units in your My ads tab. To check if you’re currently generating any revenue from AdSense for feeds, visit your “Products” performance report and look for recent data for “AdSense for feeds”.
Please note that reporting on your feed ad units will remain available following the product retirement. FeedBurner URLs powered by Google will continue to function, but will no longer serve ads. As a result, it won’t be necessary to redirect your subscribers to different URLs or to take any other action in your account. For more details please visit the AdSense Help Center.
Rest assured, this upcoming change won’t affect the availability of other AdSense products that you’re currently using.
We appreciate your understanding and thank you for your patience as we continue to develop new features and offerings within AdSense.
The Google AdSense Team
I go through a lot of content thanks to feeds. I am able to consume a wide variety of topics and find the stories that interest me because of how easy RSS feeds enable keeping a pulse on the Internet. While Twitter and Facebook might carry duplicate content, if you want to be sure to see an update from a site or on a topic, I would use the RSS feed since social networks are very much about the instant feedback and the stories you care about could get buried before you get a chance to check in. By the way, if you would like to keep up with all of 404 Tech Support’s latest articles, subscribe to our RSS feed.
Google Reader’s retirement is not synonymous with the death of RSS feeds. They will continue to be used as websites provide them. The shuttering of Google Reader and the chaos that follows might make them less important to publishers though, so it will be an interesting subject to see in the future if RSS feeds become less prevalent. Fortunately, there are alternatives. One problem that will certainly arise is that a number of applications, mobile and desktop, rely on and synchronize with Google Reader. This loss of infrastructure and a scattered user base will certainly be a set back to RSS feed usage. Some alternatives that I have found:
- The Old Reader – It’s in beta but works and is built to resemble the old Google Reader.
- My Yahoo! – Has Yahoo! become more reliable than Google?
- Thunderbird – Subscribe to RSS feeds in this email client from Mozilla and read your feeds more like email.
- FeedDemon – A Windows desktop client which uses Google Reader for synchronization. Update: The developer is shutting it down though it will continue to work without synchronization.
- NewsBlur – A web client with iPad/iPhone and Android versions. It has a free version limited to 64 feeds or an unlimited version for $1 per month.
- Feedly – Feeds in your browser or on your iOS/Android device. They announced they have a project that will be ready to go to transition Google Reader users seamlessly.
- Netvibes – RSS feed reading isn’t the only thing this site does or focuses on but it works and the other features might be useful to you.
- HiveMined.org – This was a lot of talk when Google Reader got the Google+ design. It stalled at 81% and seems like it may have been all talk though the Twitter account indicates new motivation.
NewsBlur seems to be the one catching my eye most and probably where I will migrate since I like the web-based (“cloud”) synchronization model versus a desktop or mobile app only approach.
To migrate your subscriptions from Google Reader, you can import as your alternatives allow you or export the OPML file from Google Reader with Google Takeout. As this Google Help article points out, you can export the various data tied to your Reader account.
You’ll receive your subscription data in an XML file, and the following information will be downloaded as JSON files:
- List of people that you follow
- List of people that follow you
- Items you have starred
- Items you have liked
- Items you have shared
- Items shared by people you follow
- Notes you have created
- Items with comments
If you have any other RSS feed reader alternatives to recommend, please share them in the comments.