With the exception of the web browser itself (and I have three different browsers open right now as I write this, as I often do), it’s hard for me to think of a digital tool more integral to my life than Google Reader. I probably do the majority of my online browsing inside Reader, I use it across platforms and devices, treat is as a “bounded search” of websites that I trust, and I’ve worked it deeply into my workflow via its many useful features and a number of IFTTT recipes. So the closure of Google Reader will be a major pain in the ass, and judging from the response of my peers I am not alone in that.
I’m inconvenienced, but I have a hard time working up much outrage. I see something almost pathetic in begging Google to take pity on us and keep the service open. It was a free service, and we never paid for it with anything except our privacy. Obviously, Google decided that intimate knowledge of our reading habits was not worth maintaining the service, and really, what right do we have to complain? To hell with them. There are options moving forward. And yeah, it’s a wake-up call.
But thinking about the bigger picture, a familiar melancholy is amplified. RSS has always been special to me, going back a decade now, it was the first text formatting language that I really loved. It built in dead-easy deeply accessible interoperability and hackability to rapid-fire grassroots web publishing. Back then, RSS support was a sign that an application was with it. And over the years I’ve come to see RSS as something of a benchmark protocol that gauges the health of the open web. So I place this as the latest episode in an increasingly sad story, a sequel to when Twitter discontinued RSS support.
Robert Scoble has not lost his knack for annoying me with his peculiar gift for fatalistic corporatist hype-mongering:
Wow. Google is closing Google Reader. Truth is I don’t use RSS anymore but I know lots who do. What killed this? Flipboard and Facebook for me. Prismatic too. The trend line was there: we are moving our reading behavior onto the social web. Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to subscribe to tweet feeds.
But this is sad. Particularly shows the open web continues to be under attack. We have to come into the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to read and share. Here’s a problem: a few of my friends have deleted their Facebook accounts. Dave Winer and Ryan Block, to name two famous examples.
So they will never see my words here. The open web is going away and this is another example of how.
Shorter Scoble: Pity to see the open web go, but I’m hopeful that mindlessly hyping whatever Silicon Valley is onto today will keep those consultancies and paid speaking gigs coming for me…. Hey look! The KARDASHIANS ARE TRENDING!!!!
I feel really bad for not getting back to Boris Mann when he proposed an RSS Wake. It was one of those ideas so appealing I couldn’t think of the perfect response. It would be fun to get the band back together. In the meantime, the proprietary social web will probably continue to tighten its stranglehold on the hit parade, but screw that loser scene… I’m happier making a racket here in the garage.