Google has finally announced that they were closing Reader.
I suspect that many folks have never heard of this product. Or maybe have, but don’t know what it’s for and have never tried it.
The concept of an “RSS Reader” is simple. You have a website that you like to read on a regular basis, but it seems cumbersome to visit dozens of websites just to find the few new articles. That’s where an RSS reader comes in. That’s a tool that lets you browse all that new content in one place.
It’s unbelievably handy. I use it every day.
I suspect that various forms of social media seem “good enough” to solve that problem for most people. At least, for anyone who hasn’t gotten comfortable with a news reader.
On Facebook, for example, you would follow every person or company that interested you, then assume that you’ll get their latest news in your feed. Of course, many companies won’t be on there, or won’t publish the same information there, and anyway the page is filled with creepy ads. So it’s certainly not the same thing.
You can see what I’m getting at. An RSS reader provides a useful service, and they’ve been around for over a decade. I’ve been an avid user that whole time.
This isn’t a question of a certain means of distributing that information going away. The protocols are there, and there are numerous ways of managing RSS feeds. But Google entered into a crowded field and now, 7 years later, are leaving a monoculture behind, with most apps created to browse news feeds just assuming that you are using Google for your service. All my favorite apps will need to be updated, or will just simply stop working.
Could this happen to email? It’s an open protocol, and anyone can set up a mail server. But imagine that Gmail became overwhelmingly dominant, with virtually every other service shutting their doors… then Google deciding to cancel their product on short notice.
Having open protocols is one thing, and it’s a good thing. But having open protocols but only one popular service providing an implementation is another. It’s dangerous, and look where we’ve ended up.
You get what you pay for. It’s been said many times but is worth remembering: Google is in the advertising business, and you are the product being sold!