RIP Google Reader

I'm sure I was as surprised as anyone else today when I got the popup in Google Reader, which I used constantly, informing of it's impending demise on July 1st. I've been a user forever, and find it quite useful, but I can certainly understand why it's not of huge value for Google.

I mean, sure, they get some data about what various feed items you're reading and when you're reading them for the ever-hungry Google data engine, and they can do some selling of ads alongside the feeds, but I imagine usage has been dwindling as social media sharing has spiked, and so those numbers are shrinking and becoming less relevant. The efforts of the people supporting Google Reader (there haven't been many [any?] new features I've noticed recently) are better used elsewhere in the Google ecosystem.

Because most of the feeds I subscribe to are actually interesting, as opposed to just general news I can browse through, I prefer to have feed items presented more like messages in a mail inbox, where items remain new in a list until I read them. This means the more magazine-like readers like Google Currents or similar options frequently suggested are pretty useless to me. And I'm not in the mood for another webapp reader at the moment. I wanted an old-school RSS reader.

I've recently installed Ubuntu on my gaming desktop (which I need to do a blog post about), so I did some quick Googling and decided to go with Liferea. It looks nice, seems to work well, and it's open source which is always good. I will need to actually backup my configuration, but it stores it's subscription config in .opml by default which is awesome. And encrypted backups of my entire home folder is near the top of my geeky ToDo list, so I'm not too worried.

Two things that surprised me in this process -- how many "RSS readers" are really just front-ends for Google Reader, which I guess means they have a fairly short shelf-life now; and how many of the blogs/sites in my RSS feed haven't had any updates in the past months/years. Some feeds hadn't been updated since 2008, and I'd completely forgotten I'd subscribed to them. Some (a lot actually) I've left in the new reader in hopes of someday being surprised if posts start up again, and others I've removed as my interests have changed. A good spring cleaning exercise.