RIP Google Reader, Long Live Feed Wrangler

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I've been a longtime user of Google Reader. To back up even further, I've been an even longer time user of RSS. The news of Google deciding to shutdown Reader was a big disappointment to me. Now admittedly, Google Reader is a niche product that Google never quite figured out how to fully monetize, but most of what Google does is a little vague on the monetization details. Google has been shutting down a lot of products, but this should probably be seen more as a sign that they are growing up and learning to focus their efforts. I still haven't quite figured out what Google Glass says about them, but I can't help think Adam Lisagor is onto something when he called it a Segway for your face.

After hearing the news that David Smith has been working on a Google Reader replacement, I've decided to put aside my disappointment and see Reader's demise as an exciting opportunity to shake things up in the world of RSS aggregation. The one thing I don't want to be, is the one guy still using Eudora while everyone else has moved on to better things. Although the details are pretty sparse, I'm still excited about Smith's Feed Wrangler. The reason I'm excited about it is that Smith hit all the right notes in his explanation of why he decided to create an RSS aggregator on his podcast Developing Perspective.

I use Reader almost strictly as a syncing back-end. There are other projects which will seek to recreate Reader's syncing API, but this is probably the wrong approach since it was never intended to be a public API. There are a lot of good apps that interface with Google Reader and I change clients every few months. Smith has said that he'll launch Feed Wrangler with clients for iOS and OS X and will make an API available for 3rd party clients. This exactly matches the way I currently use Google Reader.

The problem with most traditional RSS readers is they treat RSS like email. What I want from RSS is the ability to aggregate a large number of sources, not miss anything important, but not have to take an action for every single story that appears in a feed. The biggest mistake that most RSS readers make is to use an unread count badge. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the space of reformatting RSS content to look more magazine-like. Flipboard gets a lot of stuff right, but isn't in itself a sync framework.

Taking a cue from App.net, Feed Wrangler will explore a fresh new monetization concept called actually paying for stuff on the internet. In general, I agree with the concept that "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product." This is certainly true in the case of Facebook. We'll have to see exactly what the pricing is like for final judgment. App.net eventually went to a freemium model, which I believe works well for software products with a social component.

There are of course a lot of other alternatives to Google Reader which already exist and are popping up to fill the void so it's probably still too early to call a winner. So how will I read my feeds in the meantime? I'm using Google Reader because it isn't July 1st yet! Also, did you know they open-sourced Eudora?

Posted on Mar 19, 2013
Written by Emlyn Murphy