Goodbye Google Reader

You’ll notice the 5th bullet-point on this list casually mentions the fact that Google is shutting down its RSS service on July 1:

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

This is huge news. Google Reader dominated the RSS feed market when it launched years ago, and has become the unofficial backbone for OTA syncing of pretty much every single popular feed reading app.1

As a user of RSS (I check my feeds every day), the best thing to do is export your OPML file from Google Reader.

The sites we read and subscribe to are not going away — it’s just the service we’ve been using to keep our read statuses in sync that is. Over the coming months there will no doubt be several alternatives which begin popping up, and so long as you’ve got your OPML file then you can move your “subscriptions” anywhere you like.

The app I use most — NetNewsWire on my Mac — still runs just fine as a standalone RSS reader and feed catcher. So even if a syncing service isn’t yet available come July 1, I’ll still be able to check my RSS feeds from my Mac with no problems.

But that probably won’t have to be the case:

  • David Smith announced that he’s been working on an RSS aggregation service to replace Google Reader.

  • Reeder app announced that they’ll be just fine without the Google Reader syncing backend.

  • Feedly just announced that if you’re using their app, they plan to seamlessly integrate the syncing to their own sync server.

  • And Fever is a self-hosted feed catcher that already syncs with Reeder, as well as quite a few other iOS apps.

And no doubt there are more alternatives I don’t even know about already, with more to come.

I agree with Marco Arment:

It may suck in the interim before great alternatives mature and become widely supported, but in the long run, trust me: this is excellent news.

My other concern is as a content provider. I have an RSS feed for this site, Tools & Toys, and my daily podcast. The vast majority of subscribers are subscribed via Google Reader. And so, in part, I can’t help but wonder if and how much the readership of my two sites will drop off. Only time will tell, and, in truth, those subscribers who don’t port their feed to another service likely weren’t all that engaged of readers anyway.

  1. I’d be very interested to know what Google means when they say “usage has declined” over the years. How many people have Google Reader accounts versus how many people are actively checking and reading their RSS feeds? No doubt it’s a smaller user base than a few years ago, but how “small” is it now?
Goodbye Google Reader