And just like that, Google Reader was gone. I kept refreshing the page throughout 1-2 July, hoping that Google will change its mind and let its Reader carry on its unobtrusive existence in the vast world of Internet apps and software. No such luck, as google conveniently marked all my feeds as gone on the afternoon of 2 July. Thankfully, I had gone to the Takeout page earlier to download an archive of my feeds.
After five years of using Google Reader, I’m not sure how fast I can wean myself off or even forget the easy accessibility and simple functionality of this amazing app. In short, I’m still depressed.
I’ve downloaded Flipboard as a replacement… It’s pretty for sure—very visually appealing, especially if most of your feeds are predominantly images. And it has a wide range of selected (pre-curated as many people are so fond of saying now) websites, which are pretty awesome. Except, well, there will always be an “except”, this means everyone who uses Flipboard will tend to read the same stuff as you, know about the same things as you do and be influenced by the same opinions as you have. Also, it’s not great when I’m taking the train and it goes underground, the reception goes to shit and I can’t update any pages properly—it takes too long for images to load. Sense my frustration already?
I’m also trying out Feedly now, but I am still miffed that something’s lacking. For one, I can’t search for an article I read or saved on Feedly itself. The functionality of its search engine is only applicable for websites I want to subscribe to. I have to manually retrieve any article I want by browsing through all the websites or pages I had marked all as read in order to find that article again. Previously on Google Reader, I could search for any topic I fancy in the search bar and it was no hassle. And whenever I have to click on a link, it loads inside Feedly instead of taking me to the Chrome browser. SIGH.
I’ve downloaded Reeder yesterday. I have yet to try it, but I sure hope there’s some positives out of it. I mean, how can it disappoint me further than I already am. I just want to browse my favourite, regular feeds or add new websites to read without hassle and search for any topics I remember reading about previously with ease. Is that too much too ask for? Evidently, yes.
This article from TechCrunch depicts my sentiment accurately, right down to my very angst and sense of loss.
The rest of the world may “merely surf the web” for any info they want, or look at their tweets or Facebook for the latest news, but I actually prefer to get my news or info from reliable, trusted sources I had carefully curated personally. Looking at my Google Reader in the morning when I wake up, at night before I sleep and whenever I have some free time had become my thing—my solace from the hustle and bustle of the Internet where everyone wants to dictate what you know and how you know it. Google Reader helps me cut out all the distracting white noise and allow me to look at the essentials. Even the writer of this TechCrunch article agrees.
But Google Reader was special because it was one of the last remaining places on the Internet you could really call your own. In every other way, the nature of news reading on the web these days and the social services that now dominate your attention are crafted by others who dictate what you will read and when. Whether browsing through an editorially run news site, parsing your Twitter stream or reading your Facebook news feed, the links before you are those that others have deemed important.
There’s value in this signal, of course — a sense of what’s trending in the larger world allows for serendipitous discovery. But it’s also a relinquishing of control. Oh sure, you can choose who to follow, but it’s not the same as choosing which news sources’ feeds you will subscribe to, why, and how often you will read them.
In Google Reader, I’ve gleefully stuffed websites into collections like “B-List” and “C-List” and “Can’t Miss” and “Panic Button,” instead of more proper names like “top tech sites” or “Apple bloggers.” It’s my decision which headline collections get scanned with a glance, and which writers will see me devouring their every word.
Meanwhile on Twitter, every missive is as important as the one that preceded it. A photo of your cat. News from the war. A beautiful sunset on Instagram. A government overthrown. It’s a real-time firehose of information that you dip into as you can. There’s no unread count. You just refresh and refresh and refresh for more.
Ever since Google’s announcement this spring, many new services have stepped up to help fill the void Google Reader leaves behind, but none will ever fill its shoes. None of those that now vie to become the new incumbent even have search built-in, for example. A few promise “yeah, it’s coming” but too many startups begging for a second look think that merely supporting RSS feeds makes them a Google Reader clone.
Google Reader wasn’t a list of things to read. It wasn’t a collection of RSS feeds.
It was your own, personal Google. A search engine built on top of the sites you cared about. A Google News with the stories you wanted to see. A taxonomy where you chose the labels, and drove the SEO. Google Reader was your web, your slice of the Internet.
Social media, now, is theirs.
Reader’s death isn’t the end of a product, it’s the end of an era. We have protested, bargained, begged, and cried. Now we have to accept and adapt.
Google Reader, thank you for giving me five great years. Goodbye.
P/S: Fifteen days later, I’m still gutted.