Goodbye Google Reader

Contributing Editor

Google has announced they will discontinue Google Reader on July 1, 2013. The company state that usage has declined and they want to focus on fewer products.

I’m stunned. I’ve been using the application daily for several years and even Google states it has a “devoted following”.

Google Reader was launched as a Labs project in 2005. It was a relative latecomer to the news aggregation party and entered a thriving desktop and web-based Really Simple Syndication (RSS) reader market. The free product killed off many competitors including Bloglines (although that was subsequently acquired and revived).

Its demise started in 2011 when Google substituted social features for +1 buttons and disbanded the development team. The product has been neglected in maintenance mode ever since, but it remained one of the best — and only — options for RSS users. Its success means there are relatively few alternatives; NewsBlur has been experiencing server overloads since the news was announced.

Several petitions to save Google Reader running have started at:

The decision to scrap Wave never caused such criticism and at least Google open-sourced the codebase. That appears unlikely for Reader.

Is RSS Dead?

I last discussed the death of RSS in October 2010. The XML-based technology powers many cross-server communications. Search engines — including Google — analyze feeds to aid web and product indexing.

RSS’s role as a protocol-like technology seems assured, but Google Reader’s termination will almost certainly end its use user-subscription service. Admittedly, RSS was too complex for many and never achieved mainstream success; social networks quickly became a more popular way of spreading news.

But it’s a sad day. Let’s hope Google listens to the users — otherwise Reader will disappear forever.

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  • http://jackscotty.com Jack Scotty

    Bit of a typo at the end there? You meant, “Let’s hope Google listens or Reader will disapper”? Google Listen was disbanded awhile ago I believe, and the idea I got from the rest of the article was that you want Google Reader to stay?

    • Michael Heath

      Craig is from the UK. Company names are considered plural there.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks Jack and Michael — it’s been corrected to prevent internationalization confusion!

  • Matt Wistrand

    Google Reader is also used to access uncensored news by people in countries like Iran: http://t.co/JVc5DmMuus.

  • http://www.varunbatra.com Varun Batra

    After google health now it is reader. I wonder why google doesn’t want us to be healthy and informed.

  • http://www.FreezingMoon.org Dread Knight

    I was actually expecting this. RSS is just too hard for the average user.

  • James

    I use RSS feeds all the time but via Opera Mini. I find them invaluable as a way of saving me the effort of manually visiting sites to find out if anything new has popped up, and have only recently got into following Twitter users via RSS to avoid joining that site.

    However, I am aware that nobody else I know has a clue what RSS feeds are, let alone uses them, so I’ve been expecting to see support fall away. That said, Google walking away is a major moment.

    Last I checked, newsgroups/usenet was only really staying alive via Google Groups and even then the presentation pretty much hid the fact that you were actually using that old system. Ah well: the perils of living in a shiny-obsessed industry!

  • http://www.twitter.com/epiphanyg Gavin Mills

    I came here from Google Reader, which is where I do 90% of my reading.

    I never understand how people say RSS is dead, or dying. It’s never exactly been difficult for a blog to also serve up an RSS feed, most blog software like wordpress already have the functionality built in.

    Yes a lot of average users don’t know how to use it, but it’s hardly costly to implement.

  • Edwin

    What will be the best alternative to Google Reader?

    • http://chromawoods.com Andreas Larsson

      Feedly (http://www.feedly.com/) is a good alternative IMO. It’s customizable, good-lookin’ and there are smartphone apps for it too. I recently switched from Google Reader to this.

    • https://mylinkcloud.com Simon

      Maybe for some of you our new and free webapp https://mylinkcloud.com is a good alternative. We are in beta at the moment but a lot of features like RSS Widgets are ready to use. We are also working on a mobile version and hope to release it until next months. Please have a look.

  • http://www.mjswebsolutions.com Michael

    RSS ain’t dead. What about Feedly, Flipbook or Pulse? All better alternatives to Google Reader.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      It depends what you’re after. I want a good web-based RSS reader which works on desktop and mobile so I can check and keep feeds anywhere. Google Reader does that very well.

      Whatever the alternatives, Google Reader is the most well-known and used.

  • http://candeotech.net/ver10 Web development California

    Really RSS is a complex idea. I never used it.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Actually, it’s not particularly complex. RSS is simply a list of stuff (like new pages) defined in XML and accessible from a specific web address. That URL can be used by a Reader application to show you when updates occur.

      The problem is that (a) RSS sounds complicated, and (b) most users don’t understand what a URL actually is (which is evident when you spot them typing “www.site.com” into Google).

  • http://raajib0.net84.net/ Rajib Bakchi

    Good bye………………

  • http://www.xcidographics.com Creaves

    I don’t believe RSS is going to be dead ever!

  • http://LearnWebDesignOnline.com BlissfulWriter

    Anybody have any good suggestion as to what alternative to use besides Google Reader?

  • http://poetro.hu/ Peter Galiba

    “social networks quickly became a more popular way of spreading news”
    But you really cannot search them, mark them read, and go back in the way they are implemented today. Think of Twitter, Facebook etc. You can only consume it live, you cannot really go back in time and only look at the pages you are interested in, because the whole thing is just thrown together without real way to sort those out the way you want to read the stuff you are interested in.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I agree, but that’s what most people understand and use. Personally, I want an unfiltered list which I can scan, sort and return to on any device. Google Reader does that perfectly.

  • http://uniquearticlewizardz.com Johnny

    I’ve also used Google Reader for years so this is rather frustrating news for me as it is part of my daily routine which I access on my mobile. Boo Google.!

  • Gyr

    Yes, I used Google Reader, too, and was upset when I heard about Google’s decision to abandon it. But now I don’t care, because I heard about feedly and the transition to it was instant and seamless. All my Google Reader feeds were automatically imported into feedly. It couldn’t have been simpler, and I like the feedly UI better.

    But this decision by Google — they’re abandoning iGoogle, too, — reminds us of one of the big perils of the cloud: getting our selections, categorizations, content, habits, etc. intertwined with a cloud app that we don’t own or control and that is subject to arbitrary decisions. At least Google’s apps are somewhat open and, in this case, allowed another entity like feedly to seamlessly import our content from the abandoned app.