Google said Wednesday it is turning the page on Reader, the RSS-based tool that many news junkies have relied on since 2005, as it does some “spring cleaning” that will be finished come July 1. In a blog post, Google exec Urs Hölzle acknowledged Reader’s “loyal following,” but said usage had dropped off.
Well, those loyal fans are upset enough to sign a petition that so far has generated more than 54,000 signatures as of this post. And the shutdown has gotten enough coverage to generate a robust RSS feed of its own.
Twitter and Facebook have become sources of news for many of us; among other things, they provide a way to filter who or what we want to read. Google+ wants to do the same, which is why Reader creator Chris Wetherell reportedly wasn’t surprised about Reader’s demise. “When they replaced sharing with +1 on Google Reader, it was clear that this day was going to come,” he told GigaOm.
Reader, a text-based, list-formatted way of keeping tabs on content, might seem quaint in comparison with the bells and whistles available to peruse content with today. And there was some reaction along those lines. There are reports galore about alternatives to — but not apples-to-apples replacements for — Reader, such as Flipboard, Feedly, Newsblur and more.
What might be next to get the ax? Saying “everything points at a total neglect of the product at Google,” TechCrunch theorizes it could be the company’s remaining RSS product, Feedburner.
All this underscores how easily important tools can be taken away from us at any moment, and it might be a good time to think about backups to the services we rely on the most. For example, in case you missed it, Twitter last week announced it is killing the popular client TweetDeck for iPhone and Android, plus TweetDeck AIR. It is going to concentrate on the Web-based version of TweetDeck. When services like these go away, talk floats around about how you get what you pay for (Reader, like many Google services, was free). But paid services have their issues, too. (Last year, for example, the streaming-gaming service OnLive called game over before finding another life under new owners.) Temporary is the only sure thing.
Instapaper creator Marco Arment writes that Reader’s looming shutdown is actually a blessing in disguise: “We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.”