Goodbye Google Reader; Hello RSS (again)

On July 1, Google Reader performed a final Mark All As Read for every user. And then went dark.

Google Reader, Goodbye

Google Reader launched in 2005 and I started using it almost immediately. The year before, I was already convinced of the importance of RSS, describing RSS as disruptive technology hiding in plain sight.

A decade ago, Bill French and I launched a company (MyST Technology Partners) devoted to advertorial blogsites for the SMB market.  The platform technology we built included the ability to publish, track, and measure performance of RSS feeds. Though we were focused on the blogging and the SMB market, we were quickly pulled into the RSS infrastructure business when several large companies (notably, Intel and VeriSign) began using the MyST Platform to deliver enterprise RSS services.

Over the next several years, Bill and I wrote a lot about RSS and it’s importance as an emerging technology.  Not to the extent of say, Dave Winer, but we had become pretty ardent RSS evangelists.  And so, recently, with the demise of Google Reader, I’ve been asked a number of times, does this signals the demise of RSS itself?

No. It does not.  Quite the opposite, really.

In 2005, RSS was all the rage.  If your site didn’t have RSS feeds, it was a dinosaur.  If you weren’t subscribing to RSS feeds in a newsreader, you were a laggard.  But as with all technologies, mainstream adoption pushes the technical details further and further under the covers.  So it is with RSS.

RSS is alive and well.  RSS is everywhere, whether people realize it or not.  RSS is at work behind the scenes delivering content of all sorts—news, blog posts, music, photos, movies, podcasts, etc.—all across the Internet—to websites, social media sites, handheld devices, phones, etc.  Want to follow the latest CNN headlines?  There’s a feed for that (dozens, actually).  Need weather updates for Ann Arbor, Michigan?  There’s a feed for that.  How about my public Facebook posts?  Or, this blog?

How many of us remember what the “FM” in “FM radio” stands for?  And yet, FM radio seems to be doing just fine, even if most people have never heard of frequency modulation.  And so it is going with RSS.

Google Reader is gone, but RSS lives on.

PS.  If, like me, you’d still like to manage a bunch of RSS feeds in a web-based Google Reader replacement, take a look at the Feedly reader.  It’s like Google Reader, but better.

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