If you're an avid consumer of RSS feeds, chances are you saw this news last night. Google has decided to retire its Reader aggregator as part of a new "spring cleaning" initiative. On July 1, the service will go dark, just like Google Video did last year (and like iGoogle will in November).
Google doesn't provide much of a justification for the move, oddly enough. All it says is that "usage has declined:"
We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, 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.
That isn't sitting well with loyal Reader users, who have petitioned the company to reconsider. Already, the Change.org petition has 58,816 signatures—not bad, considering it only went up yesterday. Users have also voiced their complaints on forums like Reddit, where the related discussion thread has accumulated over 3400 posts. The highest-rated comment, which echoes many of the others, reads, "I'm horrified and completely at a loss. I've used Google Reader for years. What other RSS readers are there?"
Alternatives aren't lacking, thankfully. One of those is The Old Reader, which looks and behaves a lot like the Google service. The "Import" feature is currently overloaded, but you can still add feeds manually. Another good option is Feedly. That service currently syncs with Reader, but its developers have written their own back-end, and they say users can expect a seamless transition when Google pulls the plug. Feedly has also gotten a server upgrade to handle all the users jumping ship from Reader. (There are quite a few; Feedly was difficult to reach yesterday.)
I've been a long-time Reader fan myself—it's one of the tools I use to look for TR-worthy news—and have around 30 subscriptions. Checking all those sources manually every day would be impractical, so I've tentatively switched over to Feedly. I think I like it. The interface isn't perfect, but there's much less clutter than with Reader, and Feedly's iPhone and iPad apps are excellent.
I'm still annoyed at Google, of course. I'd much rather the company abandon Google+, which is constantly forced on me despite my objections. But at the same time, I can see where the company is coming from. Excessive diversification and fragmentation often leads to mediocrity, and Google has diversified relentlessly over the past decade. If all these "spring cleaning" moves can help Google's core services become cleaner, neater, and more polished, then perhaps it's worth it.