RIP Google Reader

It is with considerable regret that I announce the sad passing of Google Reader.

When I logged on this morning, Google Reader appeared pale, with its features much more poorly defined than was the case yesterday.

As I tried to discover what had happened, I also learned that Google Reader has become much less communicative - it is no longer allowing content to be viewed on sharing pages, or via RSS feeds.

It seems unlikely that Google Reader will perk up at this point, particularly as it seems to have the same terminal illness as Google+.

For my part, I'll be pulling the plug as soon as I find the next best thing. Suggestions welcomed.

A Blaze of Glory

Let's try to remember Google Reader as it was at its best (which was actually some months ago - it's been a slow demise).

At its core, Google Reader is simply an RSS feed reader, and that is what it remains.

But a little over a year ago, it had so many more useful features - it could scrape content automatically from a web page, and convert it to RSS. That capability lasted weeks, rather than months, before Google took it away again.

Folders have always been a little awkward, but they allow feeds to be grouped however you please - and the same feed to be placed in numerous folders, which is nice. That capability remains, for now.

But Google Reader's sharing capabilities were its most powerful feature, and what made it stand out from the crowd. Folders could be made public, giving other web users the ability to view the latest updates on a simple page or via a unique RSS feed for each folder.

The functionality was so well integrated that it took only a few clicks to turn a private set of subscriptions into a public page - for example, when the London riots began, I simply shifted a load of police and fire feeds into a folder and shared it.

In exchange for a few minutes' work and a handful of clicks, I had a public, live page of updates from the relevant authorities, that I could share via Twitter.

Anti-Social

Ah yes, Twitter. And Facebook. Those social network thingies that Google's so two-faced about.

Want them in your search results? Sure, it's hard to type a name into Google any more without it appearing with the word 'twitter' appended to it in the suggestions box.

Want to share content to them? Not with Google Reader, my friend. Not any more. It's cliquey now - it will only talk to Google+. In which, outside of a handful of internet marketers and people who like webcams, I've yet to find anybody who's particularly interested.

Google claim they are repositioning Google Reader by limiting it to its core functionality, so they can put greater focus on improving it.

But really, they're limiting it to interacting only with their own platforms. It's a step backwards from a powerful, interconnected internet, to one where your online activities are encased in the limited envelope of corporate ambition.

The Death of a Friend

Sure, I'm self-interested in this change. I use Google Reader to deliver live updates on to a number of my websites by embedding them using the RSS feed of a public page.

I'm going to have to find a different way of doing that - and ironically, the likeliest solution for my needs is Yahoo! Pipes.

So if you're reading this, Google (which I don't expect you are, since you don't seem to care what your users want from your services), know that the changes you've just made have driven me to one of your main competitors.

I should have known better than to get emotionally involved...

UPDATE: I may have spoken too soon. While Google Reader's sharing has indeed been switched off, Google have quietly left Bundles untouched.

They can't share items in exactly the same ways as before, but Bundles can still be used to share folders - and, importantly for my needs, to make the contents of a folder available via RSS.

I'll gradually transition my existing sites and services over to this method, rather than the previous public-folder method, and it should mean no major disruption for me after all. What a relief.

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