Google just announced that, effective July 1st, 2013, the company will retire the Google Reader service. Google Reader is a web application that allows (allowed?) users to collect, manage, read and share RSS feeds. For those that don’t know, RSS is a mechanism by which sites publish “feeds” so that other sites and tools can access their content easily. If you use a mobile app like Flipboard to read news from a variety of sites, chances are it’s using RSS somewhere under the covers.
Google Reader has been around for about 8 years, and I’ve been using it pretty much since the beginning to keep up with various news feeds. So, I’m pretty sad to see it go. But not surprised. While Reader (and RSS for that matter) has always been popular among the geek set, it never quite seemed to cross the chasm into the mainstream. More recently, alternatives, like the aforementioned Flipboard, have come on the scene which aggregate news based on social media connections as opposed to explicitly identified feeds. This is much easier for the mainstream user to “get” and use. In addition, the newer apps present a much more visually compelling user experience, taking full advantage of the images embedded in your feeds. Using Google Reader, by contrast, is like reading your email. Efficient, but not very entertaining!
So what’s next for a feed addict like me? Well, one of the feed readers I use on Android, Feedly, has already announced their plan to help abandoned GReader users: Feedly has developed a back-end service called Normandy that is a clone of the Google Reader API. That means that even though many Feedly users came from Google Reader, Feedly can continue to operate even when Reader disappears. When Reader shuts down, users’ feeds will be automatically migrated over to the new back-end.
While previously I only knew Feedly for its Android app, it turns out they have a very nice Chrome app as well. It seems to strike a good balance between being visual and efficient, and offers a nice set of Google-Reader-compatible keyboard shortcuts.
I’m sure there will be other options as well, as companies rush to try to step in for Google Reader.