This is a plea to save Google Reader. First, you need to understand my use of the product because it’ll give you an indication of why I love it.
Note: As a few users have pointed out, Google Reader isn’t dying, it’s getting a makeover and being integrated into Plus. Fair enough, but my Google Reader is going away (well, mine and Sarah Perez’). The point of this post is to encourage Google to preserve the existing, pre-integration, codebase…in some form.
I am an information hoarder. I set up custom feeds, custom searches, follow blogs I’ll never read, and follow my own bookmarks from all across the web. I’ve used Google Reader to do all this since 2006, maybe even as far back as ‘05 when it was released.
As far as I know, there’s no other product on the market that offers the following:
No doubt the engineers at Google know their stuff. They built this thing to respond insanely fast to user actions and also for retrieving content.
Having used Feedly for all of a day, it’s an awesome product, but incredibly slow for my tastes. At least noticeably slow, which is too slow in web app years. It’s not their fault, I’m sure they aren’t throwing the kind of hardware at this type of problem that Google does.
2. Infinite Archival
Google Reader, for me, was like building my own archive of the web. Sure, only content that could be collected via an RSS or Atom feed was there, but indexing feeds from my favorite bookmarking services and then using their feeds was a quick way around this problem.
There was seemingly no limit to what I could collect and store in Reader. Okay, I’m not sure if it’s actually infinite but Reader archived content for a LONG time. A random search I conducted just now returned results from as far back as 2008.
As a personal archival tool this was invaluable as I could now time-shift researching any given topic. For instance, I could follow several blogs about a given topic, and sometime in the future (sometimes even years later) I could just enter a few keywords relevant to whatever I want to write about and retrieve recent as well as historic results. I found this to be an invaluable information discovery methodology.
I believe the ability to ‘star’ content preserved would allowed users to preserve information even further back than this.
3. Narrow Search
In the above scenario I was creating my own little personal index of my interests or anything that I was even remotely interested (per chance I’d be interested later). Google made this even more powerful by allowing me to search across ‘my web index’, my likes, my starred content, or my shared content. Again, a powerful way to streamline the retrieval of information.
4. Sort by ‘Magic’
This little known feature of Google Reader was a way to ‘sift through the noise’ to find influential content from a feed, a folder (which could contain many feeds) or across your entire personal index. It has some sort of time decay built into the algorithm which meant that the freshest content always took priority despite the popularity of articles from, say, last week. This was really useful to compare clusters of blogs to see which articles were popular in a given week. When Google bought PostRank earlier this year, it was likely to augment this technology so that it could be used to improve GooglePlus.
Some people look at this and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content left unread. For me, this is a locker for all the content I’ve scraped from the web and stored for later. Trends was a useful way to check out the size of this growing index and for checking out my own reading habits.
6. The Last Living Wordcloud
The notorious wordcloud has been called the ‘mullet’ of the internet. Still, it makes me think of 2006, and as you may be able to tell from this post, I’m a sucker for nostalgia.
7. Scraping Twitter Information
Another cool function: the ability to aggregate, store and search vertical feeds from Twitter across multiple hashtags or user accounts. Even after Twitter killed off RSS feeds (asking developers to use their API for tweet retrieval) this was still possible.
I realize Facebook is eating the internet at an incredible rate, but the answer is not more centralizing of our content consuming lives – at least not for me. Also, Google Reader is a workhorse for journalists and news producers. I know they called you a vampire to their industry, but they didn’t mean it. I take it back for them.
Google, if you’re listening, please consider the following:
1. Open source it. Much like you’ve done with the Jaiku and Wave code. If you aren’t going to keep reader around, don’t take it out to pasture just yet, open source it. But when I say open source it, I mean open source it more like you did Etherpad versus the others.
2. Sell it. If Yahoo can sell Delicious, you can sell Google Reader. Who’d buy it? I dunno, I’ll run a Kickstarter or something and give it a go. 😉
3. Keep it around in Google Apps. I will pay you to keep my personal archive of ‘stuff’around, just give me an option to do so, and keep the API around.
If anyone out there knows of any alternatives that offer the above features (not just simply feed reading), I’d love to hear about them. NetNewsWire was the closest feedreader to come to this sort of utility but it all but bit the bullet in 2009. Also, it was a desktop app which was never convenient. Greplin is also pretty cool, but lacks on the reader aspects.