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The Google Reader uprising

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The demise of Google Reader could spark innovation and competition in the RSS space.
The demise of Google Reader could spark innovation and competition in the RSS space.

Google Reader users are restless, following last week's announcement of the imminent demise of the RSS service.

A petition to keep the service running was created last week and gained 100 000 signatures in only 48 hours. Currently, the petition stands at just under 125 000 signatures, but it has been noted it is highly unlikely that Google will reconsider.

In response to the petition, a Google spokesperson has said only: "We've given an overview of our reasoning and plans on our blog posts on the Official Google Blog and the Google Reader blog, and we'll be communicating directly with our users as we make these changes."

The petition on Change.org, created by Dan Lewis, states: "Our confidence in Google's other products - Gmail, YouTube, and yes, even Plus - requires that we trust you in respecting how and why we use your other products. This isn't just about our data in Reader. This is about us using your product because we love it, because it makes our lives better, and because we trust you not to nuke it."

Another petition seeking to have US president Barack Obama intervene and have Google reinstate the service, was removed by the White House.

The petition argued that Google Reader's APIs power a wealth of third-party apps and, therefore, contribute in a small way to the American economy.

Win for competitors

Following the announcement by Google, hundreds of thousands of Google Reader users have been flocking to other services.

Feedly announced on Friday that, in the two days after Google's announcement, over half a million Google Reader users signed up for its service. This has led to the service increasing its bandwidth by 10 times and adding new servers to keep up with its growth.

Feedly says: "Our main priorities over the next 30 days are 1) to keep the service up, 2) listen to new users for suggestions, and 3) add features weekly."

Feedly and other RSS app makers have also said they will clone the Google Reader API to give users a seamless transition once Reader is permanently shut down.

Another service, Newsblur, which charges $24 per year for its premium services, reportedly saw over 3 000 premium accounts purchased in a single day.

Google has closed 70 features and services since beginning its spring cleaning project in 2011. Explaining the decision to close down Google Reader, Google's SVP of technical infrastructure, Urs H"olzle, said: "We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favourite Web sites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.

"So, on 1 July, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months."

Innovation opportunity

Instapaper creator and tech writer Marco Arment says the demise of Google Reader offers great potential for innovation in the RSS space. "It may suck in the interim before great alternatives mature and become widely supported, but in the long run, trust me: this is excellent news."

According to Arment, the launch of Google Reader in 2005 "destroyed the market for desktop RSS clients".

"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."

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13 Aug
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