Google Reader is more about readers, the people, than readers, the apps

I originally posted this on Google+, but seeing how long it was and that I wanted to make sure it would stick around, I’m cross posting it here as well (irony, duly noted). As reference, this is the original post by Boris Mann on Google+ talking about Brent Simmons’ post and my post on Google+.

Thinking about what +Boris Mann, +Brent Simmons, and +Nick Bradbury are saying has me pondering the role of RSS readers (the tool) and RSS readers (the people).

RSS hasn’t ever really been hip or cool. Following hundreds (thousands?) of feeds is something very few people do but … the people who do follow those feeds are the info collectors who we rely on for news, analysis, and links. Folks like Scoble, Marshall, the teams at RWW, Mashable, Techcrunch, and TNW. And while I don’t write nearly as many blog posts as I used to, I still rely on RSS through Google Reader as a connecting thread of information. I connect to GR through Reeder on my Mac and iPad. I connect to GR through Zite and other apps. Sure my “social graph” from Facebook and Twitter also powers a lot of my news finding and reading, but I think at the core is Google Reader.

Brent and Nick make good points about maybe looking for another syncing system in the future, the problem I see is that Newsgator (for whom they both worked) also did the RSS syncing structure for a long while and stopped (and I was a big fan of Newsgator). My guess is that keeping thousands of feeds straight for thousands of users is no mean feat. I’m betting it takes serious bandwidth, serious servers, and serious cash to fund that kind of infrastructure. Oh sure you can use your own RSS server like Fever (which I bought a license for), but honestly just my meagre 900 odd feed list started to put me into a class of hosting at Dreamhost that I really didn’t want to get into.

Which brings me back to Google and Google Reader.

While I can see Google sunsetting some features of GR, I think GR and all the data that it can generate is actually too valuable to Google to abandon entirely. Maybe GR stops being free (I’d pay for it). Maybe GR just goes back to a simple RSS syncing service without a web component. However Google pulls it off, I think Google needs the constant influx of not only RSS data, but what posts are read and shared to turn their back on RSS entirely.

If Google were to close down Google Reader, I think the result would be pretty messy. Lots of the connectors and pundits and writers here need that influx of data to do their jobs. Suddenly lots of people are trying to manage feeds on various devices. Did I read this already on my iPad? Or Zite? Or on my desktop? We all like the convenience of a synced service. What Google needs to find is a better way to leverage that synced service to help it meet its own goals, which are pretty clearly focused on Google+.

There are smart people at Google, I think they will find a way to solidify Google Reader’s position (official API, fully supported service) and pull the information into Google+ so everyone is happy.

At least I hope so, because I really don’t want to have to manually manage feeds on several devices ….


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