Citing declining usage, Google has announced that it will shutter Google Reader, an RSS application that made it easy to aggregate and sort news from various Web sources. The Reader platform will be officially retired on July 1, Google says.
"We’re living in a new kind of computing environment," Google's Urs Hölzle wrote in a blog post this week. "Everyone has a device, sometimes multiple devices. It’s been a long time since we have had this rate of change – it probably hasn’t happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago. To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus – otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact."
But as Mr. Hölzle noted in the post, Google Reader still has a "loyal" following, and plenty of users seem unwilling to go gently into that good night. Consider this petition, started by a guy named Dan Lewis, which already has 44,000 signatories (h/t TechCrunch).
"Our confidence in Google's other products – Gmail, YouTube, and yes, even Plus – requires that we trust you in respecting how and why we use your other products," Mr. Lewis writes. "This isn't just about our data in Reader. This is about us using your product because we love it, because it makes our lives better, and because we trust you not to nuke it."
Not everyone agrees. Over at ZD Net, Christopher Dawson argues that RSS is a dinosaur – an antiquated feature of a Web that has changed mightily in recent years.
"RSS readers don't exactly lend themselves [to the] sorts of conversations that happen quite naturally on social media (including social bookmarking/linking sites like Reddit)," Mr. Dawson writes. "These conversations add a great deal of value to what we find on the Web and help build context in overwhelming volumes of information."
Bottom line, Dawson concludes: In the year 2013, "we can reasonably expect every service we use to be social, personalized (preferably automatically), and look great on mobile. And Google Reader just wasn't cutting the mustard."
Five years ago, we got a lot of our news by scanning the headlines or accessing an RSS feed, these days, we rely much more on Twitter and Facebook, which often lead us to stories or reports that we would never have found otherwise. That's the beauty of the social web, and something Google Reader was never particularly good at providing.
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