April 1 2013 04:47 PM

First Meebo, now Reader-why have you forsaken me?


I'm so furious with Google for killing off Reader that it borders on hatred.

I feel the raw grief of an 8-year-old whose parents euthanized the family dog because he's the only one of the children who plays with it.

I feel the rancor of the senior citizen who'll have to walk an extra three blocks each morning and night because transit bureaucrats eliminated his bus stop. I shake my cane at you, Google.

I feel the blind rage of an Abraham of an alternate universe, one where Google lets him go ahead and slaughter his son on the altar. Google has broken my faith.

Donít be evil? How about don't be cold? This is likely the first step in the parting of ways, and it breaks my little user heart that Google doesn't seem to care.

I'm probably spending too much time articulating my aggravation rather than exploring suitable alternatives. It's a false sense of entitlement, sure, but when someone suddenly eliminates a tool I use every single hour of the day, it cuts deep.

While I'm being dramatic, I might as well dredge up old resentments. There used to be a service called Meebo Messenger, a site that combined all of my instant-message services—Yahoo Messenger, AIM, Facebook Chat, Google Chat—into one web interface that I could tuck away in a browser. Meebo was a constant presence in my personal and journalist life from 2006 until 2012. It was my portal to communicating with friends and sources, and before the advent of better live-blogging technologies, I used it as a live chat room from the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Last summer Google bought Meebo for a reported $100 million and shut it down.

On March 13, Google announced it was next shutting down Reader, its personal RSS aggregation app, effective July 1. 

Google pays a lot of lip service to the institution of journalism, sponsoring scholarships and grants, but that's nothing compared with the gross setback to all the individual journalists who use it. Google's mistaken in its belief that Reader is used only to collect news articles and blog posts; for many years, it's been the primary way I've tracked new federal lawsuits, new entries in the federal register and votes cast by members of Congress. 

I realize that only a small percentage of the public uses it, but Google's measuring success by the wrong scale. It's losing its perspective on the single user's life, the impact one good solid tool can cause through ripples of competent computing. This move proves that democracy will always result in a better world than a corporate utopia; if Google were an elected official, I'd run attack ads over this. It would be absolutely unacceptable if a government discontinued distributing meeting agendas and releasing spending data only because a sliver of the population reads them. Also, it's not the size of the usership; it's the quality of the usership. At the risk of elitism, I think if Google investigated a little further, it would see that a large percentage of journalists, policy analysts, activists and lawyers—people with a disproportionate amount of influence—rely on Reader.

I liked dwelling in the Google environment, where my email and docs and RSS feeds were all housed under the same digital roof. But now, I have to investigate replacements, and with my trust in tatters, Reader may not be the only egg I remove from the basket.

Among the decent options is Newsblur, which has most of the features I need; it has a slick mobile app, but its web interface feels a bit clunky and cheap. Feedly is another one frequently recommended by the blogs (the site itself reports 500,000 Google Reader user have migrated to it), but it requires the user to install plug-ins, which won't work on computers where you don't have administrative access. Perhaps the most promising I've seen so far is The Old Reader, which is modeled after Google Reader, but I can't say for sure. When I went through the process of importing all my old feeds over, there were 30,000 people ahead of me in line.

The social-bookmarking site Digg plans to release its own RSS reader by July, and I might wait until then. Or I may take up a friend on his offer to subscribe to the open-source Tiny Tiny RSS program that he plans to install on his own web host.

In the meantime, I'll continue to rant about—hold on. Did Google Street View just make it possible to virtually stroll through the no-go radiation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant?

I love you, Google.

Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @Maassive.


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