On July 1, 2013, Google Reader will be gone:
Google discontinuing their less popular services isn't a new practice. But unlike Wave and Buzz, this is a service I actually use! So the recent announcement has me scrambling for an alternative - let me save you some time, there isn't a good one out there right now.
Like most other web engineers, the first thing that comes to mind is "why don't I just build it myself?" With that in mind, let me explain my ideal, web-based RSS reader application.
RSS is great for many reasons. It's really simple. It's clean (no cluttered UI). It's fairly ubiquitous in the online world. I have close to 100 subscriptions in my Google Reader account - this means 100 fewer sites to visit on a daily basis to grab updates. 100 fewer sites screaming at me with advertising. 100 fewer story streams I miss out on because I take a week's vacation away from the computer.
My ideal application:
- Lets me keep and curate this list of sites I want to use - without making me navigate deep into an options database to change things
- Strips out any annoying advertising so I can read content without distraction
- Keeps track of what I have and haven't read so I can catch up after a break
- Consolidates all of my reading material in one, easy-to-navigate place
I discover new content in one of three ways:
- Someone links on Twitter to an interesting article
- A friend or coworker recommends a site in person or on Facebook
- An article I'm reading links out to source material
Usually a recommendation takes the form of "you liked this? well this thing over here is similar, you might like it, too." Google reader tried to target "social reading" with Buzz. Unfortunately it failed, but the concept still makes sense: automatically recommend content based on personal interests and connections. My ideal app would do something similar - keep track of what I read and make the occasional recommendation of newer content.
As a writer, reaching my audience is important. With WordPress I can host my own content, distribute my own feed, and reach as many people as care to read my stuff. Feedburner
iswas a great tool because it keeps track of statistics and can pretty up a blog feed. RSS by itself is ugly, hard-to-understand XML. Feedburner parses that into a digestible (still clean) format you can read from a browser or through an email subscription.
My ideal app would focus on both readers and writers - letting me submit my feed for potential discovery (see above) it people are interested in related content. It would also allow me, as a writer, to gather statistics about how people are interacting with my content.
So, Why Not?
I can already see in my mind how this app would look, how it would work, and even a sustainable business model to keep it running without draining my own resources. So why don't I just build it already? Two reasons:
Lame excuse. If you really love an idea, you make the time to pursue it. Right now, though, I can happily say "I don't have enough time" because there are some more important things on my to-do list. Namely, I'll be getting married later this year. Rather than spend what free time I do have building a new application, I'm spending it planning a much more important part of my life.
Yes, this would be a fantastic application. For me. I have no idea if anyone else would like it, let alone use it. So gambling with my time on such an endeavor is very premature. There are other people already working on Google Reader replacements, so for now I plan to sit back and see where the wave of innovation takes us. If, come August, my ideal app hasn't been built yet I might pick up my keyboard and get cracking.
Or earlier, if someone other that the nagging voice in my head can convince me it would be used beyond my own PC.