Ring in the new

The death of Google Reader indicates information consumption on the internet is set to change

Back in March, when Google announced that it would permanently retire its popular RSS feed aggregator, Reader, in July, the internet made its displeasure clear. Launched in 2005, Reader had become a preferred option for the internet's many information addicts, people who thought the answer to the question, "What should I read?", was "Everything". It provided an easy way to manage the otherwise overwhelming quantities of information on the web. All you had to do was press an orange button on any web page, and voila! Like magic, tens and hundreds of standardised content feeds could be imported into Reader, so users could just visit it for all their information needs, rather than go to each website separately. Reader wasn't the first or only product of its kind, but it was the most iconic.

Other feed readers have emerged in the wake of Google Reader, with the most prominent being Digg Reader, which has explicitly positioned itself as the natural successor to the Google product. But social media has, more and more, become the de facto way to keep up with the internet and has, indeed, been identified as the culprit in the demise of more than one feed reader. Indeed, in the late 2000s, when Twitter and Facebook became mainstream, Google attempted to integrate social media elements into Reader, though with limited success. Many analysts suggest Reader was killed because Google wanted to promote its social network, Google+.

There is now a tussle between the ideas of information consumption, exemplified by feed readers on the one hand and social media on the other. Where feed readers are the sole reflection of the managers of individual feeds, social media represents a less controlled but more personalised news stream, with friends and trusted sources acting as curators. With Reader gone, there is an opportunity to devise another, better way to access information on the internet.

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