R.I.P. Google Reader, 2005–2013

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Google Reader Shutdown message

Google Reader might be gone, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost good ways to read online.


Back in January, I put out a call to my readers on Facebook about how they read online. Expecting people to respond with their favorite RSS readers — programs like Flipboard, Pocket, or Feedly — I was surprised how many people said most of their reading comes from social media sources like Facebook and Twitter.

Well, I was surprised for about a second. Then I realized I spent a lot more time reading on Twitter than on Google Reader. At the time, Google Reader held all of the feeds I use to collect, curate, and read articles online.

I’ve written before how social reading, and more recently, the Longreads phenomenon, have changed the way we read online. It’s no longer about a “feed” of articles from trusted sources. Instead, it’s about collecting and sharing what others are talking about online. There’s a social element to how we read online that is lost when we read alone, and RSS is certainly a lonely reading experience.

google reader iconGoogle Reader was for the power-readers: the journalists, researchers, and culture curators who help spread articles across social media. This meant when Google announced in March that Google Reader would shut down July 1st, only a small fraction of the internet cared, or even noticed.

However, they were a vocal group of Google Reader users. Since Google announced they were closing, many people heard from them, and that’s because these users were the ones finding those viral links on social media. Sites like Lifehacker depend on RSS to find articles worthy of commentary or analysis.

Granted, companies like Digg have built Google Reader alternatives, but it’s not the same. Google Reader was a fast, no-frills way to quickly scan hundreds of articles. And, all those people finding interesting “hidden gems” online did so using Google Reader. By the time it got to Twitter or Facebook, it was no longer a “hidden gem.”

I used Google Reader to find interesting articles and send them out via Twitter and Google+. I also used the program to build my Friday Reads column and other posts. It was a seamless process.

Now that Google Reader is dead, I use Feedly. It gets the job done, but it’s not the same. I imagine it will take some getting used to.

For everyone else, it looks like social media is the new way to find and read articles. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; after all, I still find a lot of interesting stuff through social media, particularly Twitter. And social media is the new “commonplace book,” a place to write and share personal thoughts on media.

Yet something feels lost without Google Reader. Is it that RSS technology is old and outdated, and I’m getting old along with it? Or should I adjust to this new reality?

Readers of this site know I like to keep up with the latest trends in book culture and digital technology. So, I’d like to know: how do you keep up with news? Is Twitter the new RSS feed, or is it something newer than that?

I’ll miss Google Reader, but for now, I’ll move on. And there are plenty of new services and ways to share. Reading online isn’t dead, that’s for sure.

Kevin Eagan (@KevEagan) is a freelance editor and writer living in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. Critical Margins is his place to share his interests. You can also check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.