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Why losing Google Reader and RSS in general, is a bad thing

reader-mastheadI’m starting to think I’m cursed. First Microsoft kills Sync, then Cubby kills their sync, now Google is killing Reader. Google Reader is the one page that I visit the most. It’s always open, showing me the latest updates from a couple hundred website that I’ve subscribed to.

Google seems to think that RSS is in decline. They give a few reasons for this, the first being that people are going to visit social networking sites to get news instead of using RSS. I’ll be honest, for the average Facebook user, that is probably right. My Facebook news feed is just filled with people that probably don’t even know that RSS exists. Go ahead, take a loot at your “news” feed, what do you see? I’m sure that it’s filled with well thought out articles about current events. Perhaps you have some interesting technical information about the latest GPU. No? You don’t have any of that? You say it’s all cat pictures and whining about relationships? Maybe, if you’re lucky, one of your friends will post something relevant. You could just “Like” every page that you follow, but Facebook only shows a posts from a page to about 10% of it’s followers. This means that you’re barely going to see any of the posts from your favorite pages.

Google would really like for you to switch over to their own social network, but the problem with Google+ is that it’s not used as much. Likewise, in most cases, when a website has it’s own Google+ page, they have to manually add their own links, Google hasn’t made it easy to automate it. This means that, again, you probably aren’t going to get as much content as you would via RSS.

This may be fine for the average Facebooker, but it’s not a good thing for bloggers, journalists, or any other power user of the internet. Where do you expect your favorite blogs to get their information if they have to rely on Facebook’s unreliable delivery of information? Sure, you can still open up a news site and read through it, checking back through out the day to make sure nothing new is missed, but would be a lot more inefficient than the just refreshing Google Reader. I used to do that way back in the day. I’d have a huge folder of bookmarks, then a website with a huge “links” page that I would work my way through every day. It was tedious, and I don’t look forward to having to do this again.

Another issue they stated with RSS is that it means that people aren’t going to visit the actual site anymore, they’ll just read the feed. If you don’t go to the actual site, then you miss out on all the awesome layout and design work that went into building the site. This is a terrible argument for two reasons. First, I’m not going to io9 or Geekology for their layout, in fact, io9’s new layout is actually pretty terrible, I go there for the articles. I don’t care what color the background is unless it makes reading difficult. Likewise, it’s up to the people that design the site to determine what goes into the feed. If they want people to still visit the actual site and not just read the feed, then don’t put all the content into the feed. Many sites I’m subscribed to do this, and guess what, I go to their site to read the article. Likewise, even if they put the entire article on the feed, there are many times where I wish to leave a comment or see what other people are saying, and for that, I have to go to the website. If a content provider is upset that people don’t click the links in their RSS feed, it’s their own damn fault.

They also said that RSS feeds are difficult to monetize. This is their own damn fault since they took the ability to put adds on your RSS feed out of Feedburner. I used to get a couple clicks a month from the RSS feed, I’ve since been watching my RSS readership grow, and have wondered what I could have been getting from the new subscriptions. Sure, I could probably find another plugin to put them back, or even just hard code them myself, but I’m lazy. Besides, I spend too much time wading through my RSS subscriptions to deal with that.

I think I’m moving to Feedly, it easily imports and actually syncs with google reader, so if something is marked read, it’s marked read in both. Plus, it’s got an awesome set up to organize your feeds. I looked at The Old Reader, but they are swamped. They have an option to import your feeds from Google Reader, but I think it’s broken. They show a queue for when you’re stuff is going to be updated, and every day, instead of the queue in front of me going down, about 4,000 people somehow wind up in front of me, so I don’t think I’m going to be using it…