Google Reader, the great RSS service, is shutting down, it was announced yesterday by Google. I don’t think there is a single web site or service or, on Android, a mobile app that I have spent as much time in as Google Reader, and I can’t really do justice to how essential Reader has been in the collating of material that has, subsequently, appeared on Disquiet.com and in my writing and projects elsewhere. At times people would ask where I’m going on vacation and I’d say, “Google Reader.”
My friend Rob Walker over at Yahoo! News agrees with the hopeful assertion of Marco Arment (Tumblr, Instapaper, The Magazine) that Reader’s end will inspire alternate services, yet I am anxious that the end of Reader will allow short-sighted product managers to ditch RSS from current and future websites. RSS to me is one of the key defining characteristics of the music phenomenon known as the netlabel. In allowing for easy redistribution of material, it is, to me, the very pavement of the Creative Commons, as I touched on in my 2011 list of proposals to new netlabels.
I’ve been looking around this past half day or so at alternatives. Feedly.com is quite lovely and has both an app and a web service, but the absence of an automated alphabetized view is confusing — not just confusing to navigate, but confusing in its absence; based on initial experience, it feels like one of those semi-belligerent UI/UX moves such as Gmail’s initial lack of a delete button, or OS X Mountain Lion’s version of TextEdit.app, in which the unchangeable default when creating a new file is to save it not to your computer but to iCloud. If you find Feedly promising, as I do, and want to promote the implementation of an alphabetal view, this appears to be where you can vote it up. The Feedly app, at least on Android, feels more like a design portfolio piece than a reader-oriented service, but it’s still promising. And it does appear that you can move feed-grouping order around to achieve alphatetization in the Organize tab or just in the left-column view (on the web, not in the app), but that is time-consuming, and why it’s not automated is unclear. At a buck a month, newsblur.com seems reasonable, but I’m just beginning to understand its UI eccentricities. A lot of folks have recommended theoldreader.com; a reader service without an Android app would be a stretch for me, but I’m not entirely against it.
RSS is among the key sources of my research. It may not be valuable for casual reading, but it is essential for information gathering. And information gathering is the basis of much that is published, including casual reading. I understand it may not have caught on with the vast majority, but the vast majority is a worthless threshold to employ as a gauge of utility. I didn’t ask you to save Wave, and I didn’t ask you to save iGoogle. I am asking you to save Reader.
As we await the potential pardon, suggestions appreciated for alternate services in addition to the ones listed above.