Requiem for RSS

I think I knew it in my gut. Even in the last week I started to feel like it was time to get off of it, to move on. Guess my instincts were right again…

Google Reader is to be axed on July 1st of this year. This is arguably the highest profile of the casualties of the Google culls which have been happening on a regular basis for the past year or so.

If it sounds like I’m uncertain about the timing of these prior axings, it’s because it “didn’t happen to me”. Like a guy in a dangerous neighborhood who didn’t have any issues, I kept on thinking bad things happen to other people: iGoogle users! Bookmarks users! Del.icio.us users (sorry, that’s Yahoo!) — but not Reader! Anything but Reader! But now that I’m face down in an alley I realize that sometimes the odds are on.

So what can we derive from this fact?

  1. Google+ is truly the future. For Google that is.

    Yes, that is the reason they’re doing it. G+ is obviously the intended direction. They’ve said so for a year now — I think we were all ignorant of the “how” here, however. Well, at least this explains why Reader’s been so wonky as of late!
  2. “Power users” are unimportant when they are a segmented minority of consumers.

    That there is “collateral damage” like us is not important. In a sense we are “free-loaders”. They can’t monetize it, they can’t channel it, they don’t need it.

    I am of the opinion that this will backfire at some point. We who use Reader tend to be from the “old-school” and have likely been on the web for quite some time. If we start defecting from their other products we will have shown that Google is no less of an embrace-and-extend-and-smother entity than all the other megacorps which have tried to control the flow of information on the Internet (like good ol’ MS — anyone remember .NET Passport? Isn’t that an awful lot like those Facebook logins that are now everywhere?).
  3. RSS was never intended to be utilized commercially.

    Not many ad impressions for their business in the “full” RSS feeds. Better we bookmark the sites and go to them directly to ensure we don’t get what is essentially a screen-scraped approach.

    I imagine now that the abortive Atom experiment was an early end-run against this technique on Google’s part which went stillborn as there wasn’t much of a way to get people to move to a standard which was immaterially different to the average RSS consumer.
  4. Good luck trying to share from your Personal Walled Garden.

    I removed myself from Facebook completely in May of last year. It was because I was tired of the affront of being in a Walled Garden of sorts–one which Google themselves decried. I did at the time think it was a bit of sour grapes from them (gee, walled garden are bad for our search engine==walled gardens bad!) but this move has made it clear that Walled Gardens are okay as long as they’re fully open to Google to use for their own purposes. Just like Facebook and its own.

    So if you can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em! All aboard the G+ train. How long until the “Classic” Google homepage is replaced with Google+? Might also explain why iGoogle died.

    The irony for me is I posted 90% of the things I liked onto G+ *from* Reader! But second-hand ad impressions are less valuable than direct ones.
  5. So much for “do no evil”.

    I won’t pretend to be naïve here — when megacorps talk about doin’ no evil it’s time to run in the other direction. That being said, for a long time since Google’s original Home Run of using it’s search index to sell ads it seemed to bumble about like an absent-minded engineer — the result being the mishmash of products which cluttered its cupboard. But that of course was simply the wastefulness of the person whom worries not about competition. That all changed six years ago when Facebook went “global” and Apple introduced the iPhone. The one-two return was Android and Google+. It’s as if the absent-minded engineer was suddenly confronted with a younger and ambitious version of himself — suddenly focus returned along with the veteran’s penchant to dispose of distractions for an ultimately baser goal of success.
  6. Embrace and Extend and Extinguish

    I doubt this was a patent strategy but it is definitely a danger with companies which have a virtual monopoly in one arena — they can easily monetize an assault in another related arena and squelch any competition simply through subsidizing their free or loss-making business with the profits of the main one. Think MS and Windows and Office vs. XBox. Or Google and Search vs. Reader.

    There used to be a healthy ecosystem of varied RSS readers out there — both client apps and web apps. But especially over the last few years they have all dried up and become adjuncts to Google Reader one way or the other. Admittedly this was always a danger as Google explicitly failed to document their APIs but the fact was that this ecosystem came into existence and now it is to be squelched.

Surely nothing in life is “free” and this proves it. But try competing with free and see how far that takes you in life.

Are you listening Flipboard? Hope it was worth it to become a G+ client! Better get acquired quick!

 — 

So the wound is fresh — I’ve only just gotten up from the ground and started gently inspecting it fresh. But what a whack, and what a wake-up call.

Web 2.0, RIP. 2003–2013.

Edit: Looks like we have an alternative from an app I used a while back on iOS (but discarded at some point). http://feedly.com is offering a transition to a clone of Google Reader built on App Engine.

FWIW all of the potential RSS aggregators out there seem to be getting slammed! Looks like I am one of many rats scrambling to get off this sinking ship!!!

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