Where is the next generation Google Reader?
The reaction to Google's decision to kill off Google Reader has been interesting to watch. Those that use it (including myself) all expressed their disappointment, with some clearly prepared to protest to the bitter end. Then there are the others who can't understand what the fuss is all about, since in their opinion RSS is clearly dead. I also saw an ironic comment from someone who - thanks to all the coverage - had just discovered Google Reader for the first time and realised how effective it is as a content consumption tool.
Time passes and people eventually get on with the job of finding alternatives to Google Reader. And yes, we need alternatives because neither email or social networks provide an efficient methods of aggregating the long tail of news and user-generated long form content:
- Activity streams rely on either serendipity (being in the stream at the right moment) or crowdsourced content curation (what's popular rises or repeats to the top).
- Auto-generating magazines, like Flipboard, either republish activity streams or republish channels of curated content and traditional news. These interfaces work best for smaller volumes of content that can be consumed at a leisurely pace.
To put this another way, imagine if Google only showed new content in search results or you had to page one by one through each hit. These interfaces would work in some situations, but not others.
I'm not actually that bothered by Google Reader closing down as such. Yes, this is foolish strategic decision by Google that has damaged their brand. But there are plenty of alternatives and I could, if forced, spin up a cheap cloud server to host my own RSS aggregator. But looking at the different tools I use, I realise that I am ready for a next generation tool or platform that can better fill the role that was previously being met by Google Reader. The minor detail is that I haven't found one yet that doesn't simply recreate Google Reader or force me into an inefficient user interface.
In the meantime, come the 1st July the filter bubble will become a step closer to being a daily reality for many of us.