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.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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