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Tech Talk

Death of the Reader?

7/10/2013

Last week I survived something I will forever deem the most treacherous act of technological perpetration in my life, full stop. After almost eight years of uninterrupted service, Google shuttered its longstanding RSS reading service, Google Reader.

RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds are the paper delivery boy of the Internet. Millions of websites use RSS feeds to syndicate content automatically to website subscribers. Nearly every major website and news distributor on the planet uses this technology to deliver content; CNN, ESPN, Google News, Twitter, Facebook and many, many more. RSS Readers, such as Google Reader, allow users to aggregate and subscribe to these feeds and bypass the need to visit dozens of sites each day for news and entertainment.

While Google gave plenty of warning that it was terminating its RSS reader site, for diehard content curators such as myself, it was a devastating gut punch. While Reader wasn’t the most popular service Google provided, its users were ardent and steadfast.

So what now? Protest? No use. While Readers are extremely powerful tools, their best feature is arguably stripping content of advertisements, so maintaining an RSS Reader is more of a public service than a money-making venture. It’s amazing Google didn’t shutdown Reader five years ago.

As I see it there are only three options for Reader users: Give up the ghost and leave RSS readers behind, look for suitable alternatives or build your own. First, abandoning RSS is not an option. At this point many of us are too addicted to streamlined content binging. Second, there are plenty of excellent alternatives, namely Feedly and Digg. Still if a tech giant such as Google can’t keep its RSS reader running, supporting an upstart is a scary proposition. My personal favorite? AOL.com’s Reader. Yes, the same AOL of “You’ve Got Mail” fame. It still exists.

As for option three: If Google can’t make it work, no one can. The best option might be to DIY this problem and start coding. Who knows? Maybe one day you can shutter your RSS reader on thousands of loyal patrons. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @ResponsiblyWild.                 

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