Google

'Inside Digg's Race to Build the New Google Reader'

Mat Honan went behind the scenes at Digg to get the story on their new RSS reader, which is said to be releasing next week:

“McLaughlin is talking about the future of Digg Reader, the project he and his small team of fifteen have been working on for the past month. Right now it’s just a mess of code, Keynote sides, and shit on a whiteboard. They need to turn it into a real product, one to take the place of Google Reader, which shuts down on July 1. They have less than 60 days. Simultaneously, the same team of five engineers is working to integrate another product–Instapaper–that they’ve just purchased. None of this is top secret, the opposite in fact. Digg publicly promised the world to have a replacement ready in time. They had to move fast. And when you move fast, things get fucked up.”

A few months ago, I never would have imagined that any product with 'Digg' in the title could possibly be interesting, but now I'm actually looking forward to checking Digg Reader out. It certainly sounds like they've put an impressive amount of effort into the project.

Feedly Cloud

From the Feedly blog:

“Feedly cloud is now live, providing a fast and scalable infrastructure to seamlessly replace Google Reader. Feedly cloud also comes with a completely stand-alone Web version of feedly, that works with all major browsers. Finally, we are please to announce the first nine applications built on feedly cloud, that allow you to expand your feedly experience.”

With only 10 days left until Google Reader bites the dust, this is great news indeed. Feedly has been one of my top choices for Reader alternatives (especially since Reeder supports it), and I'm glad that they're working to make the transition as painless as possible.

Relatedly, IFTTT just announced a Feedly channel.

'Free Works'

Marco Arment makes some more excellent points about the Google Reader shutdown:

“And we lucked out with Reader — imagine how much worse it would be if website owners weren’t publishing open RSS feeds for anyone to fetch and process, but were instead posting each item to a proprietary Google API. We’d have almost no chance of building a successful alternative.

That’s Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. (Does the shutdown make more sense now?)”

While I agree with Marco that the internet is generally better off for having had Reader around, and I'm also optimistic that a fine solution will someday replace it, I think the way Google handled this was a bit dickish.

They swept in with a free product, practically took over the RSS industry with it (which likely put some other developers out of work), never bothered to monetize the product, then unceremoniously dropped it years later like a bad habit.

I would say it's analagous to Starbucks single-handedly snuffing out thousands of smaller coffee chains around the world, but at least they had the sense to charge for their product and are so far sticking around as a result.

Google Reader is Shutting Down

If you're like me, you've probably already heard from a hundred different sources about Google Reader shutting down on July 1st, something they listed almost offhandedly amongst other announcements. A rather anticlimactic end for such a beloved service, I think.

Obviously this is sad news for those of us who've come to depend on the service over the years, but it's not all gloom and doom the way some people are making it out to be!

The nice thing about RSS as a format is that it's an open standard that can be used by anyone. As I tweeted earlier this evening, and what Marco Arment later agreed with, is that this is the perfect time for somebody to rise up and take Google Reader's place. Google, perhaps unintentionally, just opened up a market they never managed to capitalize on themselves.

I feel confident that many tech nerds like myself would gladly pay a reasonable fee to access such a service, provided the following:

  • It acts as a syncing "backbone" that any RSS app can use, and with a simple login scheme.
  • It allows users to easily import/export OPML files without making them jump through any hoops.
  • It has a solid web app (shouldn't be too hard to beat Google Reader on this one).
  • The developer actively updates it.
  • Fantastic support for 3rd-party services (Twitter, Evernote, 1Password, etc).
  • Can be used to generate and track RSS feeds (this one might be a stretch but I'm thinking of a combination of Reader and Feedburner, another Google failure).

Of course, all of this assumes the user is even interested in sticking with RSS rather than simply following their favorite sites on Twitter or App.net. This is certainly a plausible alternative but I've never been a big fan of it myself. I prefer to keep these two types of reading activities separate — it's just easier for me to manage everything that way. Twitter lists are a step in the right direction here, but the service itself just isn't ideal for reading web content. Yet.

Personally, I'm thinking about setting up a Fever server to host my RSS feeds, partially after some encouragement from Nate Boateng but also because it's supposedly easy to get up-and-running, even for lazy people like myself. It certainly doesn't hurt that the iPhone version of Reeder (my go-to RSS app) supports it, or that it has features far beyond what Reader is capable of.

There are also a couple of other nice-looking contenders springing up: FeedWrangler, a project by David Smith, and Newsblur, which I intend to sign up for. More are sure to come.

I think that the next several months should prove to be very interesting with Google out of the way. There are some serious business opportunities to be seized on, which will benefit all of us, both as customers and as fans of new ideas in technology.

Google is Forcing Google+ Integration

The Wall Street Journal, in a revealing piece:

"The result is that people who create an account to use Gmail, YouTube and other Google services—including the Zagat restaurant-review website—are also being set up with public Google+ pages that can be viewed by anyone online."

and

"In recent months, Google has pressed ahead with other forms of integration. This past fall, for instance, Google began requiring people who want to post their reviews of restaurants or other businesses to use their Google+ profiles to do so."

What? Google is desperately trying to sneak their way into people's lives whether they like it or not? Imagine my surprise!

I actually learned about this forced Google+ integration the hard way about a week ago, when I attempted to get rid of my account. I wasn't using it for anything, and the information listed there felt dated anyway, so why bother keeping it around? They even have a handy page for easily deleting the profile (they interestingly call it "downgrading").

After deleting Google+ from my account, I noticed that I could no longer add YouTube videos to my favorites. I was forced to re-"upgrade" to having a Google+ profile in order to regain that functionality. Had I done nothing, I'm sure I would have noticed other aspects of my Google account behaving erratically, but I went ahead and recreated the Google+ profile to save the hassle of finding out.

This kind of behavior leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I shouldn't have to be part of a social service I don't use, just to gain basic functionality on another site the company owns. What is Google even trying to accomplish here? A bigger share of a market where nobody uses their product except as a means to an unrelated end?

I think Marco Arment puts it best:

"But Google’s increasingly desperate push to cram Google+ down everyone’s throats hasn’t made Google+ any more relevant."