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Embrace, extend, extinguish: How Google crushed and abandoned the RSS industry (zdnet.com)
330 points by iProject on March 23, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments

The whole article makes for some pretty depressing reading, and touches upon some important points. For me, the most crucial and eye opening is the stark contrast of the relatively open ecosystem we had back in 2005 to what we have today. You can't help but feel uncomfortable about the whole direction we're taking with tightly controlled silos of information (Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc.) using extremely limited, or highly monetized, API access, when you read something like this:

"One thing that’s definitely coming (and some of these already exist, although haven’t yet been made public) is extremely deep API support. Our general plan here is to expose nearly everything in NewsGator Online via API, and allow folks to build applications that leverage our platform in unique ways."

Google is just as guilty as several other parties of bringing about the situation we have now. I get the fact that everyone is looking for ways of increasing revenue, but they're doing it at the expense of openness, instead of leveraging that openness (see RSS for example) and building services and added value on top of it.

I hope the death of Reader serves as a wake up call on several fronts.

I saw this situation coming a long while ago. These companies are now turning against those who made them what thu are. Worst is that they turned against us, the hackers. No or limited API access, real name policies, lack of gener privacy, no way to get your data back, etc. All of this as a result of these companies being run by the traditional corporate drone. This is why Nuuton is being developed, by me, a hacker with business experience. I know how the value Of a company depends by the hacker community that forms around it. When I say value I don't mean money. I mean how well the company is poised to do some re innovation and provide a good dependable service to the community at large. Nuuton features a strict privacy policy with no re names, no tracking, no bubbles, and private data as a default. It will also allow for easy access to your data. All of it. To the hacker community, it has and will have a robust collection of APIs for you to use without draconian limitations. Best of all, Nuuton is not being developed as a one way lottery ticket. I don't need or want the money. I'm building it because I have had it up to here with dealing with these abusive companies.

I hope what you're building is open source and resides 100% on the client's machine. Because if it's closed source or makes use of your servers, then it can't be trusted, no matter what lofty rhetoric you use to advertise it.

The fact is that if it makes use of your servers, you have the power to spy on the people using your service. You may claim that you won't, and provide a lovely privacy policy, but there's no way for the users to make sure you're actually adhering to those policies. Then it comes down to trust, and some of us don't have a lot of trust left.

This is why I use client-based, open source RSS readers like Newsbeuter,[1] and will not be moving to any web-based reader, no matter what features they have or how concerned they claim to be about privacy.

That said, if I had to use a web-based service, I'd much rather use one that claimed to have a commitment to privacy than one that didn't. So kudos to you for that.

[1] - http://www.newsbeuter.org/index.html

I reason there is a middle ground. The aim is to, at the very least, get hackers to start thinking about privacy and about building systems that are beneficial to society whe respecting the rights of those who use them. I am using open source software, and I am releasing the code when it reaches a point where it can be useful (as django apps/python packages and Lisp libraries). The ALPHA and beta versions f the system (will) reside on my servers until the de-coupled design is completed. Because the real beauty about Nuuton is that is simply a loosely coupled system built on top of a collection of APIs. The client drives all of the logic and simpy send/receive encrypted data. All data on Nuuton is encrypted. All of it. So, at the ALPHA level it will not be completely open as you state. But it will respect your privacy and will be open to audit to researchers. I believe in privacy and am building a system that respects it.

I had never talked about the system itself, but its about to hit early ALPHA. Keep posted for the announcement. Note that those who signed in as ALPHA users get a hacker account with access to the first APIs.

I'm pretty sure this project will not become huge. But it will get a of us thinking about making more open systems.

Based on what you've written here, I'm very interested in what you are talking about. However, what I can't understand is why you would choose to go-it-alone, when other projects are looking to do the same thing. Namely, buddycloud.org and tent.io.

The open source world seems to get so fractured, even among projects that seem to be aiming at solving the same problem, that none ever gain enough traction to reach the goal with any kind of success.

I wish you luck on your project, but I hope you will look at those that have existed before yours (e.g. Diaspora), and those that are taking a new approach (mentioned above).

EDIT to add references:




I appreciate the nice gesture. I do know about these other projects, and do consider them as allies. But I believe that the more projects we have like these coming out, the more improvements will there be made as whole.

> I'm pretty sure this project will not become huge. But it will get a of us thinking about making more open systems.

I appreciated this line and found it endearing. Thanks for spending time on this project; I look forward to seeing what you've come up with.

One of the issues in the multi-device world is that you want to have some kind of sync across those devices. From what I can gather, this was one of the most useful features of using Reader as the backend and I can't see how to replicate it without having some kind of central server.

This is a more general problem and (I believe) it will become more important in the coming years.

I don't see why an RSS app that resides 100% on a mobile device couldn't sync directly with another RSS app that resides 100% on your home computer or your work computer. No external RSS service necessary.

That said, I understand that sometimes externally controlled and centralized services can provide features and convenience at the expense of user control and privacy.

I care enough about my privacy, and aware enough of the alternatives to choose to tend to choose privacy over features and convenience (when I'm faced with such a choice).

I know a lot of users don't care about their privacy, don't realize how loss of privacy could impact them, or don't know that there are alternatives. So they often choose to use "free" web services that give them some features or convenience (or just because all their friends use it, etc.).

This is unfortunate, but hopefully as more people become computer literate, the media exposes more cases of privacy violations, and more people become victims of identity theft, internet stalking, harrassment, and discrimination based on their computer and internet use habits, they'll start to wisen up and care more about privacy.

I only hope that by then it won't be too late.

I also care about privacy and data ownership [1] but the specific issue I was getting at is the 'always-on, always-connected' feature of cloud services (regardless of whether they're under your control or not).

> "I don't see why an RSS app that resides 100% on a mobile device couldn't sync directly with another RSS app that resides 100% on your home computer or your work computer. No external RSS service necessary."

How would my phone know what I'd read on my computer if I'd already left the house? Of course, it's possible in principle but wouldn't some form of cloud-based co-ordination be necessary in order to make the experience seamless for a user? I'd be keen to know if there's something I've overlooked here.

[1] I'm working on a set of projects related to it - http://perscon.net (site needs updating but there's enough to give you an idea)

"How would my phone know what I'd read on my computer if I'd already left the house?"

Your phone could just contact your home computer via IP address (or maybe domain name, dynamic or otherwise) your home computer has. Your home computer would, of course, need to be on at the time your phone tries to connect to it (and vice versa).

Another option is to use an intermediary server under your control, like perhaps a VPS host that you'd run some syncing software on, and have both the phone and your home computer sync to that. That way, only the VPS and the machine/phone you're syncing from would need to be on at a time (ie. both your phone and home computer wouldn't need to be on at the same time, if that was a problem for you).

Thanks for explaining and we're actually on the same page. Working on things to make both of those options easier for devs/users (end-to-end connections and personal VPNs).

Hopefully will have things worth showing off later in the year.

Agree completely. I'd love to use my phone as the sync server, the thing's on and under-utilized all the time anyway.

That is a very good point. It used to be that you had to keep your computer on to serve as your own cloud. If your electricity prices were high, this didn't make sense.

But now, the smartphone is the always-on computer. And it uses minimal power -- possibly even less power than cloud computing, which is deliberately oversized in order to handle peak loads.

I suspect it's too complicated for non-geeks to figure out, though. There are also certain drawbacks-- for example, your phone has real storage limits, while the cloud can expand without user intervention.

Can't tell if elaborate troll or serious...

"lack of gener[al] privacy": Wasn't Google the first major webmail provider to provide SSL access (and encourage it)?

"no way to get your data back": http://google.com/takeout

"run by the traditional corporate drone": Would that be Eric Schmidt, who got a Ph.D. from Berkeley in EECS and co-wrote lex ? Or Larry Page, who left Stanford's graduate degree program to be an entrepreneur in 1998?

If Nuuton is worth anybody's attention, you won't need to lower yourself to this kind of post.

> These companies are now turning against those who made them what thu are. Worst is that they turned against us, the hackers.

All your examples are in the past, except for Takeout, and I would no more put much money on that surviving in a full-strength form (if at all) for the next 10 years than I would Blogger or Keep staying up and active.

SSL is still the default for both GMail and Websearch.

Larry Page is still the current CEO of Google.

Not rolling back some changes they made long ago is not very impressive a defense.

> Larry Page is still the current CEO of Google.

'Still'? Schmidt was CEO for a large chunk of Google's existence. And yes, Page does seem to be the problem. I'm reading _In The Plex_ now, and maybe it's just me projecting, but Page seems to come off as a autistic asshole with problems and the book speculates it's related to his father's death.

I'm unsure what your point is. philsnow pointed out that both Schmidt and Page are not your typical corporate drones (they have serious technical contributions as individuals), and your response is that it was Schmidt and not Page who was CEO for much of Google's existence?

I was pointing out that 'still' seemed to involve a misapprehension.

And your comment completely ignores my first point that not actively dismantling past good contributions is very far from demonstrating that they are not turning against hackers.

both Schmidt and Page are not your typical corporate drones (they have serious technical contributions as individuals)

Unlike Bill Gates and Larry Ellison?

> Can't tell if elaborate troll or serious...

Based on gwern's answer to you, I think s/he is serious.

I read the typo as "gen[d]er privacy".

oh well, that is valid then. retracted.

But Twitter doesn't make any money, and Facebook not that much. The bulk of Google's revenue comes from leveraging the openness of the Web; were there only Facebooks and Twitters there would be no Google Search because there would be nothing to index.

This may be completely off, but the killing of Reader looks like a desperate move to help Google+: since Google can't kill Facebook, they're willing to hurt themselves instead -- to cut their left arm so that their right arm can grow stronger.

If this is indeed the case, it's very shortsighted.

"The bulk of Google's revenue comes from leveraging the openness of the Web"

Does not compute. Google makes its money selling ads. Those ads appear mainly on Google's website, which is very much closed. Nobody knows how Google comes up with search results and why specific ads are shown.

"were there only Facebooks and Twitters there would be no Google Search because there would be nothing to index."

Google existed before social media: before Myspace, before Friendster, even before LiveJournal. When Google started, 'blog' wasn't even a word and Geocities was one of the most popular sites on the web. Social media is still a small part of what happens on the web. But imagine, were there only Facebooks and Twitters, surely Google would be offering ads there.

Google displays ads on search results that are possible because it indexes the open web. No open web > no index > no search results.

Were there only closed systems, there would be no way of building a transversal search system.

If it's displayed on a networked computer, it can be indexed – Facebook and Twitter can be indexed, it just takes more effort. But let's imagine there would be no way for Google to index the web, then they would find other places to put their ads. Google is an advertising company, not an Internet search company.

> Google is an advertising company, not an Internet search company.

I would avoid defining a company by its current monetization strategy especially in an industry where monetization is frequently an afterthought (it was for Google).

Furthermore, it doesn't do much to define a company since there are only so many monetization strategies.

What if we'd start defining companies by whether they are "for-profit" or "non-profit" instead? We'd end up with such non sense as "Google is a for-profit company, not an Internet search company." Or with, "B2B" vs "B2C": "Google is a B2B company, not an Internet search company."

If you are going to pick only one thing that defines a company, at least pick something that really makes them stand out (Google - search, Apple - consumer electronics, Facebook - social networking, etc.).

Facebook and Twitter can be indexed, it just takes more effort.

It's not really about effort; it's about the fact that FB & Twitter don't really want Google indexing them.

But let's imagine there would be no way for Google to index the web, then they would find other places to put their ads.

What makes you think they'd be successful in finding such places?

Google would buy them, like they've bought many such companies before (YouTube, DoubleClick, AdMob, DejaNews, Zagat, Frommer's, etc).


This may be true, but I think you are turning the discussion in another direction.

The talk here is of Google's current/primary business model. It is, in fact, based on the open Web as was stated previously.

Sure, they could buy other properties. But that just implies a changing business model (ex: content destinations). For that matter you could extend the argument and say that they might buy Facebook or Twitter.

But the need for them to buy such destinations in order to continue their advertising business actually itself speaks to the closing of the Web.

And that's pretty much what Yahoo! Tried to do without so much success.

I guess OP meant that if you could see only a part of the web available to you as a logged in user of some service, then you couldn't build an index which globally scans a whole website, since it cannot log in.

NOTE: well spiders could technically log in and index public shared stuff, but those services could forbid that via terms and conditions and sue any company violating them

> Google is an advertising company, not an Internet search company.

Those were perhaps the good old days. Today's Google makes less and less from ads and more from big data i.e., spying and selling (and trading) ever more extensive information about individuals, business entities, governments and other organizations. This is where the New Google (post "don't be evil") is competing Any service or app that doesn't return it's investment in PII (Personally Identifiable Information), Corporate Espionage (as it used to be called before there was Big Data) or state secrets is at best a loss leader.

Facebook definitely make a lot of money.

Twitter makes more money on mobile than Facebook does.


Twitter does make money on its API. It's done through channel partnerships. Is it as much as advertising? No. But still significant.

Twitter's API is still sufficiently open. There's plenty of data to be had. The limitations and constraints breeds creativity, and we'll finally see new integrations and ideas that do something new rather than simple enhancements and user-annoyance-fixing-as-a-product.

    " but the killing of Reader looks like a desperate move to help Google+ "

 I'd +1 that.

Except Twitter used to offer "extremely deep API support...allow[ing] folks to build applications that leverage [their] platform in unique ways." And then they couldn't make any money that way.

I'm really not sure you have a good example of a loss of an open ecosystem here. NewsGator's plans were to pretty much create the equivalent of the (unofficial) Google Reader API, which, while not replacing RSS (the actual open format), does notably reduce its role. Moreover, for those who apparently don't remember, NewsGator actually did release their API. The API and their free reader software is what they shut down in 2009.

You can blame that on Google, who did indeed retain the lion's share of users, or you could blame the self defeating business plan of providing a completely open API for free even while it costs money to run. A NewsGator API is not a loss in terms of a loss of an open ecosystem (and Bloglines was definitely not a loss).

If you want open, you need a real federated protocol. Like RSS.

Meanwhile, this article says "RSS industry" in the headline, but it's about nothing like that. The author says it himself: "No, Google Reader’s real competition back in its early days was not client software but services that aggregated RSS feeds and synchronized them across multiple devices."

You can't embrace, extend, and extinguish services that have no standard format. RSS is doing just fine. What was lost here was a UI and a service, which leaves us with user migration pain and a loss of continuity of history (due to indefinite feed history).

We'll likely always need some services. Yes, I can run a feed aggregator on my home machine, but it's kind of a waste, and not everyone has stable IP addresses they can use to sync across devices. Instead of giving up on services, what we need to learn from this is to make sure the next services we allow ourselves to depend on don't have control of our history, both individually and collectively. Notably Facebook, Twitter, and G+ don't fit this bill, or fit it only partially.

(Unfortunately, our collective history on those services is complicated by visibility/access by person controls, so maybe there isn't a perfect solution. I know I can use takeout to download my posts on G+, for instance, but what about my comments on others' posts, and what about those posts themselves as context for my comments? And what about the major news of the day, even if I didn't comment?

Sigh...we need a modern usenet...)

How can an unencrypted internet API be not open? We aren't talking about secret binary commands like Skype here.

It certainly can be, but it's not an open ecosystem. I hate when discussions dissolve into arguments over "open" just because the participants didn't have the same definition for the word "open" to start with, so I probably should have been more careful with using it. I was really just using it in direct reference to the OP's post, trying to say that "the relatively open ecosystem we had back in 2005" wasn't really that, at least in this context.

If an API is the sole source of a service, and, even worse, if it's the sole source to access data that users put into a system (e.g. feed history for essentially all feeds, facebook posts, etc), you're totally dependent on that API making enough money to justify its existence based on the whims of the people who make that decision. Luckily there's google takeout this time, but some data is still being lost. One benefit of usenet was that everyone could have a copy of everything, though there's many privacy tradeoffs there (in the modern social networking sense).

Anyway, it's not really a novel argument, just the same "dangers of monoculture/single-point-of-failure" point that has been made many times.

"And then [Twitter] couldn't make any money that way."

Hold the phone. Did they actually try to make money that way?

I could change my post to say the didn't make any money that way, but the point is the same. The problem is access to a user's content being at the mercy of revenue. An API from a single vendor that has to be paid for is not a type of open ecosystem and 2005 was not a magic time of possibilities that have since died.

So can we all now please get back to LibreOffice and syncing and leave google documents for temporary or short-term work?

Google Docs IS way more convenient, way less setup and feels faster... also, most of the world does not use LibreOffice

What's wrong with Drive? Doesn't it export to open formats rather easily?

In the word processing space, the cost to switch providers is much higher because unlike in the rss space, the average user isn't usually technically inclined. It is why MSword persists as a huge market leader, even after its ribbon interface turned it into crap, and there were competitive FOSS alternatives to a hundred dollar purchase price.

Google docs as a consumer use case isn't bad - hopefully you have the brain to know how to get all your drive content and switch when they eventually kill Google Docs as not profitable enough.

The problem is the business use case - and this comes from the popularity in the consumer space. The collaberative features of docs/drive is even more applicable in a workplace environment, and if businesses that hire "less technically inclined" people and have to hand hold them into getting used to it, and are presented with a demand to switch, the transition overhead would be massive.

It is actually a strong business interest to use FOSS because I bet it would cost less to get a junior developer to manage a fork of an old interface / feature that was depreciated in mainline and keep the security up to date than it would cost an actually big business to switch their entire software suite away from a depreciated closed product / one that radically shifts.

I strongly prefer ribbon to the endless dropdowns and modals of LibreOffice and versions of Word that are more than a decade old.

I never understood the hate myself, LibreOffice and Old Word have one of the worst uis out there. It's like the Geocities of productivity software.

It isn't about ribbon being inherently good or bad, it is how it required the retraining of dumb office staff that could barely hit the power on button of an office PC if it turned off. If you are using closed software and that kind of thing happens, either you try to hold on to an outdated unsupported version or pay the overhead of transitioning your staff to a new interface.

Same reason no one wants to even try Windows 8.

So change = bad?


EDIT: FWIW, I use Windows8 and think it's superior to 7 in almost every regard :\

From a business perspective, especially in large corporate environments where the majority of your workforce is often mediocre, absolutely. It is wildly expensive to switch tech. It is why Microsoft has done so well with Windows for 20 years, businesses get on the purple dragon and Microsoft juggles keeping everything supported to keep them happy and unchanging.

I beg your pardon? http://i.imgur.com/gMb1t7H.png

I'm not sure what I'm looking at, but your search engine appears to be broken. :-)

the challenge will be how you make money without stifling openness(and thus competition) and privacy.

Here's another viewpoint. If Google Reader was so good that it made people so mad about it being shut down, and it was so important in people's lives - then it must've been a pretty good app, right?

Okay, so even with Reader being this good, the RSS protocol was still dying because most people have moved on to other ways of consuming news. So then if RSS didn't have a reader that was this good, then it would've probably died a lot sooner, and Google Reader actually prolonged its life. Without Google Reader, RSS might have died 2 years ago.

So I don't know what's with all this "Google killed RSS". Google didn't kill RSS. Twitter, Facebook and RSS' "geekiness" that made sure it never crossed that "chasm" into mainstream usage (and what doesn't grow will probably die, as nothing is constant) are what killed RSS.

As a side note, I'm someone who consumes a lot of news every day, yet I still found a service like Reader to quickly become overwhelming, and I've barely used it occasionally. As we've seen, many of these journalists actually had thousands if not tens of thousands of unread news stories in their Reader, which I think is also why not that many people were using it. It felt overwhelming.

> So I don't know what's with all this "Google killed RSS". Google didn't kill RSS. Twitter, Facebook and RSS' "geekiness" that made sure it never crossed that "chasm" into mainstream usage (and what doesn't grow will probably die, as nothing is constant) are what killed RSS.

If you ask me, it's the combination of browsers and websites not properly exposing the existence of RSS that has stunted its growth.

Firefox used to have a button for subscribing to any RSS feeds it found in a webpage in the navigation bar. It was the only browser that did it (EDIT: that I was aware of - others have pointed out Safari also had this feature for a while), and it was a fairy obscure button too. Then they removed that.

So now you actually have to hunt for the RSS feeds - and since many webpages use a gif saying "RSS" (meaning text search is useless) that isn't always easy.

It's not difficult to use at all, but it is certainly a very obscure feature of the internet. That halts adoption.

The button still exists, though you may have to add it yourself. Right mouse > Customize.

Done. Thanks!

> Firefox used to have a button for subscribing to any RSS feeds it found in a webpage in the navigation bar. It was the only browser that did it

I'm pretty sure Safari did this as well - it was removed in Mountain Lion.

Opera did it too. Opera mini for lowly java feature phones did it too.

Apologies, I should have said only browser I used (Linux & Windows user)

Agreed, the RSS feed can be really hard to find on many sites.

There are lots of decent external apps, but I'd guess that most of today's web audience prefers consuming in the (already familiar) browser. Seems the situation might be a golden opportunity for someone who's got the chops to take advantage.

Have you seen how Newsblur handles it (including the bookmarklet)? It will automaticalyl search for a feed if you point it to a website and suggest one, and give you a subscription option if you use the bookmarklet. That's already a huge leap forward in my opinion. I'm sure there's other feedreaders doing similar things (and if not the competition should make them catch up soon enough).

Safari had a button for RSS as well. Not sure why they removed it.

That said every single blog I've ever seen has a prominent RSS button. But that isn't the reason for lack of widespread adoption. It's more to do with the fact that most people aren't dedicated "read this every day" consumers of lots of different blogs. Generally it's a small handful which isn't what RSS caters for.

It's obvious why they removed it. It was a weird feature that didn't belong in the browser. Users didn't understand what it was for. (I use RSS and I still didn't understand why I would ever click that button.)

>I use RSS and I still didn't understand why I would ever click that button.

If the current page is a blog, and you want to subscribe to the blog in your RSS reader. (When you go to use the button, it asks you to pick a reader and also gives you the option of making that reader the default choice for the next to you want to use the button.)

Are you saying that a bookmarklet would work just as well?

> the RSS protocol was still dying because most people have moved on to other ways of consuming news

Any evidence to validate this claim? Popularity of Twitter or Facebook doesn't have to be at the cost of RSS. Even if it was, it doesn't make one more relevant or irrelevant. TV did not kill Radio (at least for everyone).

New applications like Pulse depend on RSS. Many users depended on Google Reader. Now they have to learn a new application. Some of them use mobile apps which are pointing to Google Reader. It is not going to be an easy change.

People are mad for a reason.

Do you have any evidence to invalidate Googles claim of declining usage? I trust Google on this one. It served its purpose in 2005 but much better services have replaced it. Move on and get over it.

>It served its purpose in 2005 but much better services have replaced it. Move on and get over it.

Much better services? Name one! (much less "many"....)

Reddit, Hacker News, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Flipboard, and any other service that aggregates good content or allows people to easily share content with one another. Have you not been paying attention?

These things share what is fashionable, not what is important. If I find an interesting, low volume blog, I can subscribe to its feed and I will get an update when content is added. With your scenario, I might get an update if content is added, if I can find it between guff about conference scandals. It's simply not comparable, unless you're forcing worthy content (in my judgement) to have the same value as transitory celebrity gossip.

These services give me a good chance of discovering things, RSS lets me follow them. As a case in point, there are a lot of things in my RSS feed that I have discovered from HN because one single post from them made it to the front page, but no subsequent one has. But I get to see the updates because I subscribed to their feeds. That subsequent ones haven;t made it to the HN front page is absolutely not a value judgement on their worthiness - unless, as I say, you think 5 same-but-different articles on who said what and to whom at a conference is more important than the infrequent technical article by a researcher.

In short, I want to follow the stuff on the right of the bell curve, not in the middle. The stuff that mostly floats to the top of what you're advocating (HN, fb, twitter) is firmly in the middle. A lot of the people posting the content I find interesting don't have twitter feeds announcing their posts - that kind of thing is often the preserve of this week's preferred javascript framework project. My RSS feeds allowed me a much higher SNR than any of these things. So please don't compare them, as if they can serve the same purpose. That's nonsense.

> that kind of thing is often the preserve of this week's preferred javascript framework project

Careful, you're bias is showing.

The only viable alternative you named was Flipboard.

Reddit, HN, Facebook, Twitter and G+ are all user-sponsored aggregators. If I see content there, it must have come from somewhere. Where did I find the articles i share on Facebook? On my RSS feed.

One alternative is to follow your websites you like on a social service like Facebook. That's not as helpful as RSS.

  - No read/unread tracking
  - Depends on news feed algorithms
  - Lots of noise
RSS mean I never miss an update. Your alternatives don't.

These days, I see more "follow me on twitter" links than I do "subscribe to my RSS feed" links. I have no issue with RSS as a technology, but it clearly did not resonate with the non-technical user. Twitter and Facebook did. Geeks can lament this until they're blue in the face, but they're in denial if they believed RSS was ever going to be a viable mainstream solution.

A twitter feed is almost always going to be full of noise updates. An RSS feed from a real blogging platform, especially if you filter to a tag, is going to be far more focused on useful information.

Maybe more of us should use the phrase, "Follow my feed".

[1. Follow instead of subscribe. 2. Feed instead of RSS, because (a) there's also Atom, and (b) neither "RSS" nor "Atom" are quite as friendly as "feed".]

Still, most people are not going to know what the heck a "feed" is. They know what Twitter and Facebook are, but they don't understand finding an RSS reader and using it to follow somebody's "feed".

It is a pretty easy word to learn. Heck, even FB already has a "news feed"

I don't care whether or not it's "mainstream", so long as I can use it.

RSS isn't about aggregating or sharing content it's about following content.

How do I avoid missing each post from a handful of people who publish rarely in an endless stream of chatty publishers? RSS is how I sidestep the stream and catch the important things.

Mark them as Close Friends in Facebook.

I'm not talking about friends on Facebook. I'm talking about blogs for the most part, but sometimes I find an interesting RSS feed in an odd place.

Those allow you to follow people and what they think are important. RSS readers allow me to follow what I think is important.

You clearly haven't been, or don't know what RSS is for as none of those solve the same problem as RSS. Social news != my news.

Different needs. You are clearly a pure consumer of information, whereas GReader users are curators of information. You are the 90 in the 90-9-1 rule and GReader appealed to the 9.

For curators, there are (yet) no good alternatives.

Exactly! It's maddening to hear there are better technologies and services than RSS yet no one can name them...

Well of course usage declined after they cut its features, fucked up the design, and failed to maintain it.

One can make the argument that Reader's dominance in the market helped push the decline of RSS usage. To try and compete in the same space you have to hide the fact that you are an RSS reader; whether that be with gimmicky layouts or by integrating with social networks, or whatever else. You can't be seen as redundant with Reader.

I think we're going to see a lot of advances with RSS due to the closure of Reader and I'm excited to see those.

One counter-point is that the accessibility of Reader due to its presence Google ecosystem also grew the global user base of RSS aggregators. Which is to say its not a given that those using RSS through Google Reader would be using RSS at all if it never existed.

It's also not a given that the sync back-ends built in this Never-Reader parallel universe would've matched what would got with Reader in terms of reliability and speed, since regardless of how you feel about them Google infrastructure is best in class.

It's been great for me. I switched to Feedly after the announcement, and I'm glad I did. It bridges two worlds for me. I get the classic Reader-esque view for the post-a-day people, and the magazine view with features ranked by sharing to filter the top few stories on the 400-a-day sites.

I even made special folders: Tech Gaggle, Science Gaggle, Politics Gaggle. I skim these when I've got nothing else to read, and it doesn't overwhelm me with things.

This gets said a lot 'RSS is dead'. It's very much not, in terms of people consuming news through it? Maybe. But it also powers podcasts, for example, and they're going from strength to strength. Plus a lot of sites showed they still get a large amount of traffic via RSS after the announcement.

A million users isn't a lot at Google scale, but it's by no means dead.

I use RSS for low-traffic sporadic blogs and a handful of higher-traffic news magazines. I don't get too many items a day and it's quite easy to quickly remove the ones I'm not interested in. Then I'm left with about 1-10 interesting articles every day, which is pretty much what I want.

Not providing an RSS feed is like not providing an API; you're giving up control of how scrapers access your website, but I'm sure that readers will find a way to get automate content aggregation either way. It's just annoying to lose standards.

I use Google Reader a lot but I don't care about RSS. I think RSS is unnecessary for news aggregation and the death of Google Reader has little to do with RSS.

If the death of Google Reader was about RSS, Google could have declared RSS legacy and told people to start using the HTML5 article tag plus a few specific metadata attributes.

But how would that have helpled G+ compete against Facebook? It would have taken some creativity to figure that out, but since many Reader users were keen on sharing it shouldn't have been an impossible problem to solve compared to self driving cars.

One of the things I always wanted to get around to while working for Google was to borrow some ideas from Gnus, Lars Ingebrigtsen's brilliant news reader for Emacs. (A rewrite of Masanobu Umeda's Gnus)

Gnus has a brilliant system for assigning a score to postings in all sorts of clever ways. You have the simple stuff, like assigning a negative score to a given person, but you can also do more subtle stuff like scoring up postings that are responses to your own postings. It also has various forms of adaptive scoring.

The score then influenced the ordering of threads, highlighting threads that need your attention and hiding threads and postings that you do not want to see. (Most news readers had a bozo-filter that could do the latter, but which didn't really do any of the former well).

What made Gnus such a great newsreader was that, with the use of scoring, I could spend 10-15 minutes per day getting an overview of dozens of active discussions I was having across a bunch of newsgroups. At one point the total number of postings in the groups I was following was around 6000 postings per day, and it took me mere minutes to get an overview of what had happened that was of interest to me.

The idea of scoring applied to RSS feeds would have been brilliant. It would have made following a massive number of RSS feeds a far more attractive proposition.

I still think that there is an opportunity to revive RSS and make it relevant again, but I would recommend that people interested in RSS readers have a closer look at Gnus first. RSS readers need to do a lot more than just aggregate and display feeds. There are some great opportunities in figuring out how to add scoring in a way users can understand. Also I think that harnessing social to provide additional signals that can be used for scoring would be neat.

Is there an RSS reader today that does any of this?

Gnus wasn't the only Usenet news reader that had advanced features like that. Other news readers, like Pan[1] did too. Many mail clients, like mutt[2] and claws[3], were also pretty advanced in the ways they let the user score, filter, and consume content.

Web forums, web mail, blogs, and web news sites were definitely a huge step backwards in terms of interface and features.

[1] - http://pan.rebelbase.com/

[2] - http://www.mutt.org/

[3] - http://www.claws-mail.org/

Goes to show that even massively inferior products can win* if they have lower barrier of entry.

*: Winning means quite many very different things: for example you can win number of users / visits (ability to monetize) vs actual usefulness etc...

Don't forget the massive advertising and PR budgets that corporations like Google have, vs zero advertising and PR budgets of most open source projects.

Well there was a service named Aiderss that did ranking based on internet popularity which was renamed PostRank[1]. Google bought the company behind it in 2011 and discontinued the service instead of integrating it in Google Reader.


That sounds really interesting. I deliberately avoid high volume RSS feeds due to the difficulty of finding the things I actually want to read.

I get the feeling though that the issue with RSS was not altogether an issue of uptake or ux.. but more an issue of sites wanting to track their users. If RSS could allow for some sort of phone home (opt out / anonymisable of course) then maybe there might be more of a push from content creators.

Back in the day when RSS was all new and shiny there were quite a few people that saw RSS as the mechanism that would help blogs become conversations (structurally speaking). Somewhat like on USENET, RSS would be the thing that made it possible to have discussions across blogs and for a reader to be able to follow these discussions. I never quite bought this, but I was willing to entertain the idea.

Of course, this never really materialized. What we got was ... well, a mess. I think mainly because a lot of people tried to reinvent the wheel and did so badly.

I never saw RSS as something portals would be interested in. (And any time a site's business idea is to keep someone on their site for as long as possible, what you have is, in my opinion, a traditional, late 90s portal).

(Back in the early 00s I worked on web crawlers and to me RSS was interesting because it could have been used to aid us in finding fresh content. I talked to a few site owners back then about why they were so reluctant to add it and the sentiment was largely "we want people to find our content from our front page")

Wasn't that the point of Gwene[1] (also by Lars)? Serious question, because I haven't used either but am interested in what you're describing.

edit: [1] http://gwene.org/about.php

Tiny Tiny RSS attempts something like newsreader-style scoring: http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki/Scoring

+1... I've said here repeatedly that Usenet and Usenet readers were, 15 years ago, way more advanced than things people are using now. Questions about, say, Java in comp.lang.java.^ were leading to more interesting answers than what is available today in SO.

And, more importantly, it was so easy to follow a gigantic amount of threads and find the information that would likely be of interest to you.

Sure this required good readers and users willing to learn to use these but as a result it was incredibly more useful than what we have today. There were some people who simply geniuses and who were explaining things in great way: it was very easy to assign them good scores so that their interventions would stand out.

What do we have today? Inferior crap like StackOverflow because, supposedly, users would be too lazy to learn to use powerful functionalities.

I'm pretty sure one day we'll get some "Gnus meet StackOverflow" webapp which is going to rock our world. I can't wait for the next big thing because honestly we've made a gigantic step backward.

"I can't wait for the next big thing because honestly we've made a gigantic step backward."

One of these days, those of us interested in a 21st century Usenet should really get together and make it happen. I never used Gnus (I was more of a trn guy) and I think Stack Overflow is pretty cool, but I do miss the ability to sift through large quantities of high-quality posts using the tools and interface that worked best for me.

The concept hasn't completely congealed in my mind, but some cool features would be: separation of content from interface, great APIs, pseudonymous identity with encryption and signatures, and some sort of a reputation system.

I'll make the pizza. You bring the beer.

"I'm pretty sure one day we'll get some "Gnus meet StackOverflow" webapp which is going to rock our world. I can't wait for the next big thing"

At the pace corporations "innovate", and considering their tendency to dumb-down interfaces instead of providing more advanced features, it might take another 10 or 20 years for them to get anywhere near the features Usenet news readers had 20 years ago.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

RSS is not very good for social networks, they want you to visit and stay on their web page, so that they can control and monetise properly.

Nobody is interested in ways to leak content and users outside their empire, at the contrary.

One day, when the Internet will have transformed in the Amazon-Facebook-Google-Microsoft walled garden we begin to see today, I shall tell tales of how people used to build and run their own web sites and email servers and visit each other's blogs and so on. And how they all let that go, because it was "too hard" and they "didn't have time" to deal with it all.

Ultimately it's us who are at fault. We had it, but gave it all up.

We are giving up our privacy and freedom for illusory convenience and safety, to paraphrase a famous saying.

It might be naive, but my own little protest is avoiding Google+ whenever possible, as a user and in projects I build.

RSS isn't dying of natural causes. Plenty of small-medium sites are getting orders of magnitude more traffic from Reader than from G+. Google and other major companies are trying to deprecate it in order to replace with their own, tightly controlled, solutions.

G+ can't be avoided for too long. Google is using it to tie together Author Rank, which helps for SEO. If you want your content to rank higher post-Panda update you'll leverage G+.

If that's true then G+ is more of a danger to Google than Facebook ever was. Using the index as a way to strong-arm publishers into using a half-baked Facebook clone may even work, short-term. Long-term this is one way Google can lose Search.

It is true, Eric Schmidt said: “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

I assumed you were making that quote up, but holy cow, he actually said it.

My historical love of Google has been directly proportional to my unawareness of Schmidt's privacy philosophy. The man's gone completely insane, and makes a frankly woeful spokesperson.

Eric Schmidt tanked Sun, Novell, and Google. His best CEO ability is ejecting before the crash, so his effect on Google is not yet evident.

I post links to new blog posts on G+ with a nice lede, then gently push e-mail subscription and RSS on the site. That's all G+ will get from me until it's useful for more than SEO.

Please ignore everything Schmidt says. He's creepy beyond belief.

About G+ I hope more people give it the finger so that Vic Gundotra finally understands that you can only alienate your users so much before they go somewhere else.

Right now not using G+ isn't hurting publishers. Those that do use it get a little bit, but not enough that they have to use it. Google is playing the long slow game with this. By the time everyone has to use G+ to stay relevant in the SERPs everyone will be.

Linking a profile to your web page is not the same as using the plus.google.com website.

Verifying identity is simply submitting a form to Google.

I doubt that this will work out for Google in the long term. For one there is the danger that G+ will soon be full with fake profiles created by spammers. Another thing is that coupling of G+ membership with organic ranking reminds me of Microsoft bundling IE with their OS. They leverage their monopoly in one market to take over another.

Using the dominant position of Google Search to push other Google properties, isn't this what "Don't be evil" was supposed to be about?

No, it was supposed to be a marketing slogan for idiots who think for-profit companies can "not be evil" or care about it.

Only if it harms user experience.

Which it does when it deliberately shows inferior results. See:

Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy Jan 11, 2012 at 1:58pm ET by Danny Sullivan


No, I won't.

Either Google build accurate rankings, representing real web tendencies and quality, or they lose the search engine market.

There's Bing which is not half bad -- and if Google turns to this artificial G+ scheme, it would be better than Google. And the market is ripe for another newcomer...

Depends on how the execute this. If they turned it on like a switch I think it would fail. But it seems they are slowly allowing verified authors in G+ to affect search rankings. Slowly people will see this and want to get in on the action. Slowly people will migrate to G+. If you look at how Google has handled G+ you will see that is exactly what they are doing.

This is bad. Tying the worth of a website to its presence on a proprietary service, reminds me of yahoo's paid-for search directory service.

Yes. And it will ultimately sully their core product. When I type in a phrase I'm interested in how involved in Google+ the potential results pages might be, I just want the most relevant information - a Google+ affiliation is noise in that data set.

When you see someone's photo next to a search result and "by Person Name" that "by" is a link to their G+ profile. Even though the search result could be linked to a blog post on another website.

Wait.. wasn't this what the FCC was supposed to investigate? Google abusing its dominant position in one area to leverage its other products and shielding it from competition. I was aware of requiring a Google+ profile if you wanted your picture to appear next to search result, thus increasing the chances of clicks (like Ebay) but Author Rank seem like a terrible idea! Please don't mess with your core products.

This is only true for content producers. As long as the content producers use other means than G+ to publicize their content I, as a consumer, have no incentive to use G+. So to me this still seems to be a losing proposition. Consumers vastly outnumber consumers and when the producers act as consumers they are still free to use whatever they want.

I'm very put off by thus attitude that Google owes us all a free RSS reader, as if they are the tech equivalent of the social safety net. Google has and always will be a company focused on profits. They would be supremely unprofitable if they sunk time and resources into dying technology just because it had a few fans.

It's not hard to make an RSS reader and if you miss Google Reader so much, sign off of HN and make your own, better version. But you won't, because you know that Google is right in their decision to axe the whole thing.

I'm very put off by people presuming to tell me what I think or plan to do.

I don't get why RSS is "dying". Many people who create online content that is worth following provide a feed which you can subscribe through so many ways it is not funny.

Maybe social network addicted people may not recognize but there is a whole world who use email, instant messaging and other stuff like feeds to communicate, which are very established and not beholden to whims of any single moneymaking scheme.

Feeds are a very simple and open idea. Inability to put a toll booth between the communicating parties doesn't mean feeds are useless or dying. It just means you are unimaginative. Browsers may chose to hide the functionality out of a desire to idiot proof their software but it doesn't mean people who have an attention span more than a goldfish have no other ways to subscribe.

I see the "embrace" part. But I don't see any "extend" or "extinguish". Seems to be just FUD. Lots of cynical people wish Google was as "evil" as 90s MS, but that false equivalence just doesn't hold. It would only hold in some outlandish scenario where Google added proprietary extensions to RSS to make everything that operated with Reader incompatible with anything else, thus eliminating the main advantage of RSS as a common standard (like MS did with Java).

I have hundreds of starred articles in Google Reader. So yes it was more than just RSS.

That's a detail of the reader, not the formt. That's like claiming that offering an option to order entries by date ascending or descending is extending RSS.

(moreover, you can export your starred stories and several readers support importing them)

RSS is a technology, not an industry and Google's killing Reader may not necessarily kill RSS. I've switched to Feedly and love it. I wished I'd been using Feedly years ago. Reader is quite pathetic in comparison to Feedly actually. But I didn't know that. I used Reader because it was from Google and all my colleagues were using it.

As a result I'm checking out alternatives to other Google services. I've been in a Google rut for many years now and it's time to get out of it. It's all good.

What do you like better about Feedly? I've switched over as well, but the less compact interface (even after switching views as recommended by the bog post for migrating Reader users) and general sluggishness compared to Reader have annoyed me. I'd like to appreciate some of the differences instead.

I should have mentioned I'm using Feedly on an iPad. On the desktop Feedly isn't as compact as Reader - but there's a setting where you can make it nearly so.

On the iPad I like the magazine layout and swiping to mark an article as read. Having fewer articles presented at a time actually has been helping me better focus on each article. And now that I can see more of the article I can better determine whether it's really something I should read. Whereas before I tended to skim the titles and try to weed out articles and figure I'd get to the articles I might be interested in later. To then find out that I really wasn't interested in that article.

But that's me. You might hate Feedly for the exact same reasons I like it. Good thing you have until July 1st to find an alternative that works for you! Good luck!

To me, the permanent archive of all RSS feeds is far more important than the Google Reader front end. Critical comments that blog owners deleted on their site are still found in the Google RSS archive. In some cases it exposes true malfeasance, when blog admins change the comments of others. I can download whole RSS histories myself, but without a link to an independent archive my own copy is worthless as evidence, since I could have edited it myself.

> since I could have edited it myself.

You can limit the potential damage by publishing a hash precommitment of the archive; then later if you need it, you can provide the archive itself, let others verify that the hash matches the archive, and then any 'edits' could only have been made before the hash was made (which might have been many years ago, whenever an issue or scandal pops up which motivates a look into the archive).

This has got to be a joke. Just because one company decided to shut their RSS client, the 'RSS industry' is now abandoned ? Tell that to feedly who just welcomed 500k users [1]. These were users that relied on google reader. RSS as a standard / service is not on square 1. It is inadequate in some ways and ATOM was supposed to fix that and was never really adopted as well as RSS. There are tons of aggregators out there that use RSS (and ATOM) to get all your news in one place. Use another client and move on.

1 - http://mashable.com/2013/03/18/500000-google-reader-users-mi...

It was more than a RSS client. It's also an API for third party apps.

I offered to give Google my first born to keep Reader alive but they didn't even respond. First iGoogle was given a death sentence. Then Reader. If they shut down Currents or Google Print I am going to move to Canada.

And it's not just Reader: Google Talk is following the exact same strategy as well. It supposedly is the world's largest xmpp network, but with a few extra changes that makes compliant xmpp clients practically useless (e.g., not able to add anyone inside gtalk from the outside: _they_ have to initiate the request, supposedly for spam reasons.)

But then again, Facebook does the same thing...

>>It’s not unlike the widely criticized model that Microsoft pursued in its pre-Millennium days as a monopolist: Embrace, extend, extinguish.

Ridiculous. Microsoft works to eliminate the competition, whereas Google is just not supporting it. RSS will not be eliminated due to this decision.

I love using Google Reader but I don't see what the big deal is. It seems like an RSS reader is something anyone can build in a month maybe. There are alternatives that seem to be less than optimal but I assume they'll get their act in gear. I would be in their place.

Well the article is about the synchronisation, not the RSS client.

I can read the same set of feeds in Flipboard on my phone, Reeder on my ipad and NNW on my mac.

The people who were building alternative synchronisation systems gave up when Google moved in with Reader; hopefully someone will step in with an alternative now, but there are a LOT of apps that will need to be updated to take advantage of the new system.

One big innovation new rss sync engines can provide is linking of posts. For example, showing you blog responses from across the web to a post you are reading. I think Google didn't show it because they have an aversion to exposing the incoming links graph for whatever reason, but this would be a killer feature for users.

Reader did have an excellent "recommended" feature that used some kind of social metrics algorithm. That feature stopped being useful after the G+ debacle, but it could also be a killer feature. I'm sure there are many others.

There's a really easy solution here.

Google should just donate the Google Reader application to the Apache Foundation or another open source initiative so that others can host their own.

In fact, it was a mistake to shut down the service without also announcing that they were open sourcing it simultaneously. Look at all the bad PR that's floating to the top of HN right now.

They open sourced Google Wave around the same time they shut it down, and that was a far less popular and useful service. It avoided a lot of the bad PR that the Reader shutdown is causing, however.

Reader is probably tied in to Google's back end infrastructure too tightly to decouple it into a standalone app.

Google has a proven record of killing its own and acquired business/startups. Please, next time you have a buyout offer from Google, please think about your users and DO NOT sell! If you are in a position to receive offer from Google, rather than not you have pending offers from others as well. There is NOTHING Google can give you that will benefit your users more than other interested parties can.

Anything other than Google search, Android, Google Cars and Google Glass is doomed to extinct, sooner or later.

Search is an easy problem once the hardware/bandwidth is cheap--they'll have more competition soon. The "cars" thing they have to fight everybody--insurance companies, car manufacturers, big oil, the govt. Pipe dream. I don't see Glass going anywhere either, nobody wants to wear a camera on their face--creepy. Adwords is funding the whole circus over there and publishers I talk to aren't happy with how they're treated. Content is king.

Perhaps there isn't money to be made providing (free) rss sync services. If there was no google reader it might have been newsgator shutting down(or if it was their main product they might have shut down their free service or severely decreased their free quotas).

Either way, RSS "going back to 2006" is not a bad thing for anyone. Companies will roll out products if they think there is a market. Google shuttered Reader but they have products that do similar things. With Google+ you can follow people (equivalent to following personal blog feeds on reader) and blogs/websites with plus accounts(equivalent to following websites with feeds on reader). The bright side is with g+ you get more interactivity. I always wanted to comment on posts in a feed without having to visit the website or blog. The dark side is with g+, content and delivery both will be tied to one single service(with RSS atleast your content will still be available after reader dies in july).

Google currents is doing something similar to reader too. The difference is the lock in and the magazine like feel. Then there is Keep.

So perhaps RSS or atleast the idea behind it is not dead yet. Perhaps Reader wasn't making any profit or perhaps Reader was eating into the potential success of Google's other offerings and so it was killed.

> I always wanted to comment on posts in a feed without having to visit the website or blog.

Just imagine if instead of killing them, they somehow entertwined Reader and Sidewiki...

reader + sidewiki sounds like a good idea. If that came with an option to use a separate nickname, things could be golden. Google+ cannot do this on the scale that reader could, simply because sites with RSS > Sites with g+ accounts. But that is an assumption.

You seem to forgetting something. Privacy. I want to subscribe to RSS feeds without letting my friends and work colleagues know what they are. And I sure as hell don't want Google tailoring advertising or search results based on them.

Rumours of the RSS demise are exaggerated. Just put a notice for your RSS users to encourage them to use Feedly or something like that.

RSS was a business threat to Google, it allowed people to glance through aricle headers and often read them whole without ads. Google Reader allowed Google to contain this trend, then slowly phase it out as much as they could.

People easily forget ads are Google's main product that provides them he bulk of their revenue.

Where does the extend come in? Not that I ever used reader but the article doesn't seem to mention any extensions to RSS other than a thing called "bundles" which I have never heard of. Did reader have a lot of specific extensions that make it hard to build a competing product?

Google Reader has a number of features that are above and beyond simple RSS/Atom parsing:

* Starring

* Sharing amongst other Google Reader users

* Smart sorting of feed items

* Marking as read

* Indefinite retention on feed items

Most of these, by themselves, are not hard to replicate (maybe the sorting is, indefinite historical archive definitely is if you haven't already started), but all these "extensions" to RSS/Atom parsing, so to speak, were exposed via an (albeit undocumented) API that spawned a whole ecosystem of feed readers that rely on it, because a major selling point for the past several years has been "syncs with Google Reader".

None of those are extensions of RSS, they're just features of the reader. By your criteria, any reader that doesn't just display the unparsed xml is "extending" RSS.

The key to the "extend" step is that it has to be done in a way that disadvantages others by breaking interoperation when they used to be able to. Not only did RSS (and Atom) feeds continue to work across all feed reader clients, but you can also export many of the features you list in a straightforward and unobfuscated format (and via API, as you note).

The Google Reader API providing those features is the extend of embrace, extend, extinguish, not merely the features isolated away from the feed parsing (which is I why I put "extensions" in scare quotes). Feed readers, due to market demand, have coded to the API—which provides features above and beyond what you can get from simple feed parsing and are only available from Google—instead of the otherwise-interoperable RSS, Atom, and OPML specs.

So while yes, potential competitors could replicate those features (just like Netscape could—and often did—replicate IE-specific extensions to HTML and CSS with their own versions), it can't be done in a competitive manner. As a user, if all my feeds, activity, friends, and retention are within Google's infrastructure, there's no point in switching to another solution that provides all those things—or worse, merely sticks to the simple standard of OPML—unless I'm forced to (just like very few people coded to Netscape's implementation because most were using IE).

That's the essence of embrace, extend, and extinguish: adopt a simple standard (RSS, Atom, and OPML), extend it beyond that spec in a way competitors weren't and the specs don't support (the API that adds starring, retention, etc. to the mix of simple feed parsing), then watch as competitors who don't adapt to your new "standard" fail (if you were developing a feed reader and didn't support Google Reader's API, good luck with that).

First, it's rather ridiculous to assert that an API provided specifically, albeit unofficially, to allow syncing of the state of features with other feed reader programs somehow disadvantages those other readers. It was a service that existed, and other feed readers used it. Feedly has plans to provide a similar API, and it will likely be available to many feed readers because most of the work is done in creating it, not reading from it. They aren't trying to crush the market through a non-standardized service, they're just fulfilling a need.

Besides, Reader API support itself is still just a feature. You would need something like interleaving non-standard entities into RSS feeds for an equivalent to "extend". That is the kind of thing that the phrase refers to, as it fundamentally breaks what is supposed to be a standard that all parties can code against. RSS has continued to work fine.

If what you were saying were true, then, for instance, browser add-ons would be anti-web. Differentials in javascript engine performance would be anti-web. Different locations for the forward and back buttons would be anti-web.

The closest analog in the browser would be browser sync. It's already becoming a feature that users look for, as it is quite convenient to have your browser history and bookmarks on your phone and computer synced. Soon it will likely be essentially required for a browser to have a sync system if they want to survive in the browser market. So far all of the browsers sync systems are non-interoperable. Are they all using this feature as an effort to extend the standards of the web in a way that disadvantages the other browsers in the hopes of stomping out the competition?

No, and in fact, browser UI behavior is explicitly not standardized to allow that kind of differentiation. The important part is that they can consume and display the web correctly, so that it remains available to all, which leaves them plenty of room to compete on features.

I'm starting to think that maybe you don't really understand what the embrace, extend, extinguish (hereafter EEE) strategy is. The whole purpose is to intentionally provide something that others can hook into such that it's unfavorable for competitors not to adapt to what you're providing.

The pedantic distinction you're making—that, in order for it to be an extension it has to be embedded into the original spec and that add-ons don't count—just doesn't hold water either: one of the most prominent cases of EEE was Microsoft's development of ActiveX done allegedly done specifically to break compatibility with the plugin system already in place by Netscape et al.

But more directly, modern browser add-ons aren't EEE because they aren't billed as a spec and no one add-on implementation has become the de-facto standard. Firefox, Chrome, and to a lesser extent Safari all have add-on implementations that are relatively competitive with each other.

Features implemented as part of an EEE strategy are always billed as "just a feature". But they have real consequences to a competitive marketplace. This is why the loss of Google Reader is so impactful: companies like Feedly—who is still just working on a Google Reader API-compatible implementation of sync and other Reader features—now have only a few months to fill the void that everyone in the space took for granted for years.

You'll have to be more specific for how you would define "embrace, extend, and extinguish", then, because it's difficult to parse from your comments anything more than that a feature has to have consequences in a market place for it to fit the "embrace, extend, extinguish" mold (it also doesn't help that the author also offered nothing to back up the comparison other than the fact that NewsGator no longer offers a feed reader).

ActiveX is actually a pretty bad example, as it was outside of web standards and only has impact because of the close ties to the OS and the advantage Microsoft therefore got there. It is therefore a pretty good example of some of Microsoft's lower level anticompetitive acts, but it's a poor example of "embrace, extend, and extinguish" (even if only for the fact that NPAPI was itself essentially being made up as Netscape went along at the time).

No, the canonical examples of the phrase, coming from US v Microsoft itself, refers to Microsoft's attempts to make Sun and Netscape irrelevant when it came to Java and the web, respectively. The plan was to embrace the standards of each, bringing support in as core OS features, and then literally extending the standards with new APIs, tags, etc to add features that developers would want. This would put pressure on those companies that in time they might not be able to keep up with (or they would spend all their time reimplementing Microsoft's features and lose their images as the trailblazers) because the formerly-standardized content they used to be able to consume with their programs would become unreadable and/or unrunnable without the extensions. What's worse, Microsoft often designed APIs that were closely aligned with Windows APIs, specifically to make it easy to implement there, and difficult to implement efficiently elsewhere.

In other words, they broke the standards in a way that if you didn't implement the extensions, you couldn't consume the content that was supposedly compliant with that standard. You aren't adding a feature that users want and so other clients need to compete, you're adding features to the content standard so that other clients cannot function without them, and you're doing it while pretending loudly that your extension is just part of the standard.

So, no, a service that makes the client better and that users soon demand does not fit the bill (and, again, we're talking about an API specifically existing for making it easier to interoperate on those features). Yes, it had a market impact in that many users wanted support in any feed reader, and, now going away, there will be a loss of functionality if someone doesn't reimplement it. That's often the way with features. But it's a poor analog for the actions of monopolists past.

"RSS industry"?

Everything to spin a drama, I guess...

I don't get all the fuss: "Google Reader was born in October 2005"..."the short life and sad death of Google Reader"?

Come one, I think that 8 years is a very long time in the (online) IT world. It was pretty obvious that RSS wouldn't be something for the long-run anyway.

If RSS is too old to deserve existence, I wonder what we can say about http,smtp,ssh ; tcp/udp/ip ; ethernet/wifi ? :)

What nonsense. Either way. I said neither of those things.

It is not age that is the problem, it is RSS itself. RSS is just not a good solution in the long run because, amongst other things, we a. get better and better at parsing language, which makes a separate protocol unnecessary and b. we, right now, are more into cloud based news delivery, think links on twitter, etc.

More semantic alternatives to HTML (like HTML5, but good) will also make things like RSS useless.

I never understood why Google didn't profit RSS well by doing a product polish as Flipboard or Zite. They could have done something powerful as those and they didn't. Instead of that, they did a crap app wich it doesn't even get close. I would have been a happy customer of Reader wich such nice interface.

Google is a data company. They stand to gain very little from offering a "passive" service like RSS - there just isn't much interesting data in the user experience for them.

Well, the Flipboard UI allows you to insert ads between pages, they could build a new entire way of ads placement, why not.

In a way, isn't it good that Google has discontinued Google Reader. It gives chance to other small players to grow and focus solely on improving their RSS reader?

Yes, it was unfair to their users that they were left out suddenly. But I am sure they will find good alternatives.

I can't see what's the big deal. Those that were using an RSS reader can find another replacement right now. And, as others have said, the replacements are arguably better.

If anything, all this buzz may be bringing new people to RSS.

Like ? I use Reeder on iOS and OSX (very popular client apps) with hundreds of starred articles.

By all means enlighten me as to a suitable replacement. I think people forget that Google Reader was an API as well as a client.

Feedly promises to have such an API and is popular enough that Reeder is likely to support it.

They need to indent their stylesheet, but that's an interesting perspective, and a nice overview for those needing a refresher as to the history of Google's tactic.

"RSS industry"?!

I thought the whole point of RSS is that it's decentralized. Feeds don't have to come from a single source and no one client is needed to view them.

One could argue that the demise of Reader is the best thing to happen to RSS in along time as this supposedly decentralized and decentralizing standard became too reliant on one vendor.

Is it really Google's fault that RSS was overshadowed by the emergence of social networks to the point that it doesn't make economic sense for them to keep maintaining it?! I don't’ think so. Neither is it a commentary on standards, it’s merely a company that is acting in its own perceived interests, something companies are wont to do.

As for the “Industry” part, last I checked those who are actually building a Reader replacement are delighted with opportunity:




When a writer this associated with Microsoft starts framing this situation as yet another flimsy accusation of anti-competitive behaviour, I tend to be skeptic.

"One could argue that the demise of Reader is the best thing to happen to RSS in along time as this supposedly decentralized and decentralizing standard became too reliant on one vendor"

I'm overjoyed that yet another for-profit corporation is out of this segment of the internet market. If it gets some former Google Reader users move to client-based, open source RSS readers, that makes for less spying on users and more privacy; and the more decentralized the net gets, the better.

Problem I have is even though akregator does the client side job well, I have multiple devices I read feeds on, and want them synced. But I don't want to leave my main desktop on 24/7 as a feed host, and I have abysmal bandwidth anyway (50 KBps up) so accessing it over dyndns from anywhere is unreasonable.

I really do need a service, online, that maintains my feeds updating and viewing, so I can sync them across devices. Problem is everyone I've looked at either doesn't provide a mobile client (and I've become way too used to google reader's flick right to next article for webcomic reading) or has some stupid browser plugin like feedly that breaks webpages for me. They also provide way too much of the social nonsense - I just want a web sync of feeds and views, plus some favorites feature.

I can't wait to get back to the times where I had to poll all my feeds every few minutes and saturate my bandwidth.

Saturate your bandwidth by polling RSS feeds? What do you use to connect to the Internet, a 300 baud modem?

Every few minutes?

I don't really want to download another client. I want it to be in the browser.

Then you want someone else to pull and deliver feeds, which means it costs someone else. Plus hosting, and site development. You can't do that in FOSS for long.

Production is decentralized, but consumption doesn't have to be. You need to store your reading list somewhere, and once you have more than one device, you need some place where this information comes together. That's Reader.

One thing that strikes me about the piece is that it reads like actual Journalism. Yes there is opinion and point-of-view, but it is mixed with historical context, real comparables and quotes from actual industry people.

A lot of the so-called journalism I see today is fact-free, thinly-sourced advocacy posing as news. Its nice when writers do a bit of legwork and put some meat on their reporting.

Disclosure: not associated with ZDNet or Ed Bott. :-)

I'm not disagreeing with the content of the original post but I do have a hard time accepting it as journalism. Ed Bott has been a part of the Microsoft eco-system for a long time.

zdnet? really? This "thing" has always been the low of the low and they've been constantly defending MS everytime MS did embrace, extend and extinguish.

Actually zdnet is a pro-MS propaganda medium.

Who does seriously take this junk seriously?

There may a lot to criticize about Google's move regarding RSS but posting links to zdnet isn't helping the cause.

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