The announcement that Google is shutting down its RSS Reader came as a shock to me this week, though apparently insiders saw this coming a few years ago. Rather than mope about what a lot of other people are saying – Google is evil – I am trying to take the situation as an opportunity.
In 2008, a colleague recommended that I switch to Gmail, which I had already had for a few years but was not using. I explained all the reasons why I didn't think it was an option for me, and she pointed out all the ways in which Gmail was not a simple online e-mail account like Yahoo. After two days of test driving, I switched completely and have not looked back.
Could the same thing be happening now with RSS? Is there something better in the works?
I use Google Reader all the time. It is my morning newspaper, and it is an indispensable tool for me as a journalist to keep track of what is being said. It has also become a place for me to simply drop feeds to websites I don't want to forget.
Over the years, I have never really trimmed down my Reader, and in switching to Feedly (which is apparently the best alternative currently) I realize how much junk has piled up over the years – but also how important Reader is for the 10 or 20 feeds I rely on.
In switching over and reorganizing my feeds, I found that a number of them were dead, and I felt that I was no longer reading a whole slew of others. But the trimmed down selection on Feedly does not make me happy. Maybe I will find a way to organize my feeds so that I think I can see what I'm looking for, but I am not blown away yet.
The bigger question is whether there is a future for RSS at all. Is this just the first nail in the coffin? Is everything going to switch to apps, with each subscription being its own app? That would, of course, solve the financial issue that is dogging journalism today – and indeed, it seems that Google is ditching its Reader not because it is unpopular, but because the firm cannot see any way to make money from it.
One thing's for certain – getting feeds from social media is not an option. As someone who has to produce material for social media (as a journalist), I need to be able to aggregate information, so I need the overview – not the end product. And while Google Currents looks a lot sleeker, I don't need sleek – and the app does not run on my Windows desktop.
After a brief test drive, I do not think that I am going to be much happier with whatever new set up I create, as I was with the switch to Gmail. It seems that the loss of Google Reader is just that: a loss.