Google announced today that their Google Reader RSS system will be discontinued on the first of July, with capabilities provided immediately for exporting all relevant subscription and related data.
Google's statement triggered an outpouring of wailing on the Net that literally (at least according to various social trending indicators) surpassed likely much more important news suggestive perhaps of future integration of Google's Chrome and Android operating systems, and even another matter of interest to some number of billions of Catholics on this planet. Even Hitler "weighed in" with an expletive-laden rampaging subtitle rant against Google's move, courtesy of the now seriously worn out "Downfall" movie meme. Petitions (yes, even one of the goofy White House petitions) immediately popped up demanding that Reader be retained.
The detailed reasons behind the announcement haven't been officially discussed, but the handwriting has been on the wall for quite some time, as the Reader user base was clearly in decline and Reader improvements pretty much ground to a halt.
In some quarters today, the old "RSS is dying anyway" platitude could be heard, but while there's some truth in that, RSS is far from dead.
To be sure, my initial response when reading of Reader's demise this morning was a rather loud "Ouch!"
I'm a very heavy Reader user. I almost always have a Reader tab open, and I use various apps on my Android devices to keep Reader in sync as I quickly scan for potentially interesting news items through the day.
So yes, I am going to miss Google Reader.
On the other hand, it's not as if Reader is the only game in town for dealing with RSS, even when you're working with multiple devices as do I (and presumably, as do most of you).
For example, feedly.com offers a free slate of reader apps for desktop browsers, Android, iOS, and more, and they're promising to provide their own backend to seamlessly replace Reader's feed functions. In my early testing linking Feedly to the existing Reader infrastructure, the results have been very good both on the Chrome browser and Android. Right now Feedly is somewhat overloaded -- not at all surprising under the circumstances today -- but if their service pans out as promised I don't think I'll have any problem at all living with their apps (which, by the way, can be configured to very closely approximate the Reader look and feel).
There are a wide variety of other RSS readers of course, and I've heard rumors today of new "Google Reader clones" being planned as well.
The upshot of all this, especially in light of the provided ability to export existing Reader data for input into other systems, is that while there's likely to be a bit of hassle involved in the short term, the end of Reader will not signal the end of RSS. In fact, RSS may actually become healthier with so much new energy being injected into other reader applications and associated systems.
I'm as lazy as anyone else when it comes to getting comfortable and complacent with familiar apps. All else being equal, I'd have preferred that Reader continued, even though, truth be told, Reader has definitely gotten rather long in the tooth.
So yeah, the end of Reader is something of a bummer. But realistically, in context, it doesn't push very far into the bummer scale. Reader users are encouraged (to paraphrase an old song) to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try some new RSS apps.
Now, what else happened in the news today, again?