Wow, what a busy news day. First we get a new Pope. In walked Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina and out walked Pope Francis. Then there was the amazing news about a Veronica Mars movie being funded on Kickstarter. And now it’s the sunsetting of Google Reader.
The way people are talking about this on Twitter and Facebook, you’d think Google just killed RSS entirely. RSS, for those who don’t know, is “Really Simple Syndication” which basically allows people and services to easily subscribe to blogs like mine. It does a whole heck of a lot more but that’s the basics and what Google Reader took advantage of.
There is much speculation that Google shuttering Reader means the end of RSS and all the apps that use RSS and/or Google Reader integration. I read hundreds of articles a week through my Google Reader account, as viewed on my iPhone/iPad/Mac in the awesome Reeder app.
I log into Reeder with my Google information and it presents to me all of the RSS feeds I have subscribed to. Instead of having to load up dozens of sites a number of times in a day, I just tell Reeder to refresh the feeds. RSS also powers the distribution of podcasts and is incorporated in lots of social media and device/system status services.
RSS is brilliant and it isn’t dead
RSS can’t just die. It’s decentralized like Ham radios. It might be replaced with something else (ATOM is superior but hasn’t taken off like RSS) but the function it provides will live on. A lot of tech pundits are making the point that social media is at blame for this. More and more people are getting their news through Twitter and Facebook shares many of which get aggregated by apps like Pulse and Flipboard. There is definitely truth to that. The overwhelming majority of traffic to my site is through Google searches followed by Twitter. But these forms of news-gathering only work “in the now” not after the fact. Once it isn’t trending, it isn’t seen. That’s where RSS comes in.
As you see in the image above, there are days that I am just too busy to read my RSS feeds. Then there are days where I read a ton of articles. These are the days I’m catching up on articles posted earlier in the week and where relying on Twitter for my news would fail.
If you live off of Google Reader, or an application that uses it to aggregate your feeds, fear not, there are workarounds and Google was kind enough to make backing up your Reader painless:
Google Reader will be retired on July 1, 2013. If you’d like to download a copy of all your Reader data before then, you can do so through Google Takeout. You’ll receive your subscription data in an XML file, and the following information will be downloaded as JSON files:
- List of people that you follow
- List of people that follow you
- Items you have starred
- Items you have liked
- Items you have shared
- Items shared by people you follow
- Notes you have created
- Items with comments
Click here to start downloading your Reader data from Takeout. Once downloaded, your subscription data should be easily transferrable to another product, where you can continue to keep up with your online reading.
How will apps that rely on Google Reader to sync RSS feeds live on? Only time will tell but I have an idea of how an app like Reeder can survive. Export your Reader OPML file (above) which holds your list of feeds organized into folders and simply import it to Reeder. Reeder could then synchronize the feed subscriptions via iCloud between your iPhone, iPad and Mac.
These apps could even do this for you automatically. The apps already have your subscriptions and hierarchy data so a relatively simple tweak to their apps would scrape that data and again sync it through iCloud. The user wouldn’t need to do anything besides maybe authorizing the transition.
So the end of Google Reader doesn’t mean the end of blogs or RSS. Yeah it sucks to lose a fantastic web version of what we now use apps for but that’s just the way things go, even if it was predicted to be the other way around. Just make sure you download your data!