RIP Google Reader

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Google is killing Google Reader in July. It was launched in 2005, designed by Chris Wetherell at Google as a side project, but it became the go-to application that everybody used to keep up on all the blogs they followed. The reason that Google Reader was so important was that it was that it was easy to use and it integrated with a web browser—it wasn’t a separate piece of software. It gave a broad, horizontal view of all the blogs and websites that one might follow, as opposed to the linear flow of something like Twitter, or the social recommendations of Facebook (neither of which existed at that time, it should be said).

Matt Haughey, who we watched a video of at the beginning of the semester, shared his thoughts on the death of Reader on his blog. This part is especially important: he states that little, everyday blogs or ones don’t update frequently could get lost in the flow, and that for journalists and writers who try to keep track of other blogs, there’s no alternative:

Google Reader announcing they are going away soon is a huge problem. It means the loss of a beloved app for a lot of nerds and news junkies, including a great number of journalists, not only those working in the technology field. It means a lot of tiny blogs won’t get noticed as easily if we won’t be able to easily monitor infrequently updated blogs written by experts. I’m convinced we’ll see some effects of this closure on journalism, until writers scramble to find alternate ways to monitor thousands of contacts and researchers writing online.

Haughey’s initial reaction on Twitter (which he backed off from) was that he’d even leave his own company to work on a different RSS reader. “I think RSS is so important that I’d take a job (leaving MeFi [MetaFilter, the site he runs]) at any startup aiming to make an improved Google Reader (w/ social features).”

In light of what we’ve talked about in class about “you loops” and “filter bubbles,” about the ways that Facebook and Google organize and serve us our content, it’s disheartening to see Google kill this app that lets someone keep up on a broad swath of their interests. Worse, it makes it a lot harder to see content from outside of whatever mainstream a large company wants us to see.