RSS Readers

About this time last year Google closed down its five year-old Google Notebook service. I had been using Notebook for some time and had quite a bit of content in there; I had found it to be a pretty powerful, streamlined tool for note-taking and organisation. Google presumably chose to ‘sunset’ the service because its self-contained nature left little room for it to interact with other of their products in a manner which could generate revenue.

Today is the final day of another Google service: the RSS feed reader built as part of the Google Labs process, and introduced in 2005. Google Reader was my introduction to RSS, a technology that has become a daily part of my online activity ever since. Reports vary on the level of resources required to sustain a feed reading service, though the greater burden is likely to be in terms of memory and computation power (both of which Google has an almost infinite supply of) rather than person hours. It’s also arguable that feed collecting and reading fits more closely with Google’s central search service, and offers a clearer opportunity for the company’s advertising business. In this respect one of the contributing factors for Google’s shutting down of Reader is likely to be to shift emphasis onto companies' and pages' presence on the Google+ service; just a couple of days ago improvements were revealed to the social network’s JavaScript follow buttons and plugins.

In the wake of Google Reader a number of services have emerged hoping to attract the attention of those who had relied upon it: Feedly, Feedbin, and Betaworks' newly-launched Digg Reader all look promising, with the first two of those also being supported by Silvio Rizzi’s best-in-field iOS & OS X app Reeder. It’ll be interesting to see how the RSS ecosystem adapts to the closure of Google Reader, which had become the default standard having killed off smaller services when it launched. I’ll be paying particular attention to how Betaworks draw the balance between their disparate products: a content aggregator (Digg), a link shortener (Bit.ly), the recently purchased read-it-later service Instapaper, and now an RSS reader.

In real terms I don’t think I’ll feel the closure of Google Reader all that significantly; it was technology I accessed almost exclusively through third-party apps (surely another contributing factor in its closure) and that is something that will remain a viable option long after 1 July with the new services stepping in.