Thursday, March 14, 2013

RSS being killed off as Google Reader is retired

This week Google announced they are to retire Google Reader, an RSS aggregator more popular amongst journalists and news junkies than average Internet surfers. However, it has caused a stir in the online community with many users of the service voicing their anger on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Declining use

The service will be taken down on 1 July. In a Google blogpost the firm's senior vice-president of technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, acknowledged that Google Reader has "a loyal following" but that "over the years usage has declined".

Launched in 2005 to help people track updates on their favourite sites Google Reader is one of the simplest aggregators to use. iGoogle also performed similar functionality with users being able to add RSS feeds as well as gadgets. However iGoogle is also being shut down in November 2013.

RSS is dead

The closure of easily available and user friendly RSS aggregation sites begs the question as to whether RSS is dead. Ben Parr writing for CNET certainly believes the days of RSS are numbered.

With Twitter, Google+ and and even news aggregation like electronic magazines such as Flipboard and Google Currents, RSS certainly hasn't got the glossy feel, nor the accessibility of modern day equivalents.


The backlash shouldn't surprise anybody. Reader's power users consist primarily of hard-core bloggers, says Parr. Bloggers often use the tool both for research purposes, as do professional journalists, and to publicize their own output. Indeed it is simple to incorporate an RSS feed into many blogging platforms including Google's own Blogger.

For independent bloggers getting onto big platforms such as Flipboard and Google Currents is out of the question, thus many writers will see audiences dry up or disappear.


There are some alternatives to Google Reader, and after all it is unlikely Google will reverse their decision despite petitions and complaints. Social Media Today  offers up a few alternative RSS readers, though it has to be said that just as aggregation sites and readers dwindle and become more geekish, fewer and fewer websites will offer an RSS feed to follow. In fact feeds can often be killed off, or forgotten about and effectively become dead links.

It is perhaps with sad irony that RSS is being killed off bit by bit soon after the death of Aaron Swartz who at the age of 14 co-authored an early version of the RSS specification [BBC].

Further reports: Sky / Guardian / Independent / PCWorld / PCWorld / DashBurst]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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