If you're like me, you've probably already heard from a hundred different sources about Google Reader shutting down on July 1st, something they listed almost offhandedly amongst other announcements. A rather anticlimactic end for such a beloved service, I think.
Obviously this is sad news for those of us who've come to depend on the service over the years, but it's not all gloom and doom the way some people are making it out to be!
The nice thing about RSS as a format is that it's an open standard that can be used by anyone. As I tweeted earlier this evening, and what Marco Arment later agreed with, is that this is the perfect time for somebody to rise up and take Google Reader's place. Google, perhaps unintentionally, just opened up a market they never managed to capitalize on themselves.
I feel confident that many tech nerds like myself would gladly pay a reasonable fee to access such a service, provided the following:
- It acts as a syncing "backbone" that any RSS app can use, and with a simple login scheme.
- It allows users to easily import/export OPML files without making them jump through any hoops.
- It has a solid web app (shouldn't be too hard to beat Google Reader on this one).
- The developer actively updates it.
- Fantastic support for 3rd-party services (Twitter, Evernote, 1Password, etc).
- Can be used to generate and track RSS feeds (this one might be a stretch but I'm thinking of a combination of Reader and Feedburner, another Google failure).
Of course, all of this assumes the user is even interested in sticking with RSS rather than simply following their favorite sites on Twitter or App.net. This is certainly a plausible alternative but I've never been a big fan of it myself. I prefer to keep these two types of reading activities separate — it's just easier for me to manage everything that way. Twitter lists are a step in the right direction here, but the service itself just isn't ideal for reading web content. Yet.
Personally, I'm thinking about setting up a Fever server to host my RSS feeds, partially after some encouragement from Nate Boateng but also because it's supposedly easy to get up-and-running, even for lazy people like myself. It certainly doesn't hurt that the iPhone version of Reeder (my go-to RSS app) supports it, or that it has features far beyond what Reader is capable of.
There are also a couple of other nice-looking contenders springing up: FeedWrangler, a project by David Smith, and Newsblur, which I intend to sign up for. More are sure to come.
I think that the next several months should prove to be very interesting with Google out of the way. There are some serious business opportunities to be seized on, which will benefit all of us, both as customers and as fans of new ideas in technology.