Life after Google Reader

Expect innovation, competition in RSS desktop apps

Google Reader, the beloved RSS application with a loyal user base, is the latest casualty of the search engine giant’s quest to consolidate and focus on developing core products.

How will Google’s decision to shut down Reader on July 1 affect real estate professionals?

Blogging is still an integral piece of the real estate industry’s digital space. Real estate pros publish and consume blog content every day and have faithfully used Reader.

Those who don’t want to rely solely on social media for news and content will have to turn to other services. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of alternatives out there. 

Google, which has sunsetted a grand total of 70 products and services since 2011, announced another round of spring-cleaning last week, discontinuing eight more services. The majority of the product cuts have essentially gone unnoticed or haven’t generated much fuss. Until now, that is. 

For those not familiar with Google Reader, it’s a web-based RSS (Really Simple Syndication) client that manages all of your website and blog RSS subscriptions.

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The premise is simple: Whenever a new post is added to a blog, Reader is dynamically updated. There’s no need to visit the site or clog your inbox with another newsletter. Although the format was not widely adopted by the mainstream, Reader was particularly popular in the geek community.

Google cited a steady decline in usage and the desire to focus on other opportunities as reasons to shut down. Chris Wetherell, one of Google Reader’s original developers, tells Gigaom that the discontinuation was inevitable, and that he was amazed by the product’s longevity.

Marco Arment, technologist and creator of Instapaper, believes that Reader’s demise may act as a catalyst for innovation and competition in RSS applications.

"Google Reader is a convenient way to sync between our RSS clients today, but back when it was launched in 2005 (before iPhones), it destroyed the market for desktop RSS clients," Arment blogged. "Client innovation completely stopped for a few years until iOS made it a market again — but every major iOS RSS client is still dependent on Google Reader for feed crawling and sync.

"Now, we’ll be forced to fill the hole that Reader will leave behind, and there’s no immediately obvious alternative. We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade."

Here are a few resources to help you make the transition to an alternative product.

Google Takeout:

Google Reader users can use Google Takeout to export their RSS feeds. Google Takeout is a helpful tool that enables you to download data from various Google products. You can learn more about the app here.

Mashable:

Mashable has compiled one of the more comprehensive guides on the web to help you make the switch from Reader to an alternative product. The list includes Feedly, a robust RSS curation tool. More than 500,000 Google Reader users have registered with Feedly since Google announced that it was shutting down Reader.

Raspberry Pi:

This option certainly caters to the more adventurous, but I just couldn’t resist including it. As I mentioned in "Real estate industry already embracing open source," the Raspberry Pi is a tiny, inexpensive computer that runs the Linux operating system and has captured the imagination of many. This article details how to replace Google Reader with a Raspberry Pi.

Copyblogger:

Jerod Morris, from Copyblogger, has a simple solution, "Move your Google Reader audience to email."

"You don’t need to be sold on the effectiveness of email marketing and you already know how to master the platform for maximum impact," Morris writes. "What you need to do is — by being awesome — sell your readers on why now is the best time to subscribe to your email list. Not for you, for them. And it’s precisely because of Google’s decision to drop Reader."

This solution goes beyond moving to an alternative solution — Morris is recommending an entirely different platform and approach. However, it’s a viable solution you may want to consider.

Google is probably smart to consolidate their product line and focus on core services. This was Steve Job’s advice to Larry Page, Google’s CEO.

As Google continues to develop Google Plus and further integrate the platform into its universal ecosystem, we can probably expect even more product cuts.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.

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