Google's loss is everyone's else's gain

Alan Buckingham
Mar 18, 2013

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past week then you know that Google's has made lots of news and most of it was not good, thanks to the announced death of Reader. Ghacks has taken a look at the best of the alternatives already, and this morning I decided to choose mine, opting for The Old Reader.

I made my choice between this option and Feedly because of input from other users who were less than  thrilled with Feedly and also because the company has recently been having issues simply keeping its servers online -- "More than 500,000 Google Reader users have joined the feedly community over the last 48 hours. We love passionate readers. Welcome on board".

When I downloaded my OPML file via Google Takeout and attempted to import it into The Old Reader, I was greeted with the following message -- "There are 46908 users in the import queue ahead of you".

the old reader

Then there was this message as well:

"Bad news, some queue positions got messed up again. We fixed the issue, and we hope this was the last time it happened. Good news, we were able to ramp up the queue processing speed, so it should move along much faster now. Also, we will notify you by email as soon as your feeds are imported, so there's no need to keep checking the import page.

By the way, even if you uploaded your OPML file, you can still subscribe to your favorite feeds manually and start reading. There will be no duplicate feeds when your OPML file finally gets imported".

This begs the question, and I believe my colleague Martin asked it earlier today when  discussing the upcoming Google Keep note-taking app, why does Google choose to kill a service that is obviously more popular than the company has led us to believe in its announcement?

Given the influx of users that the alternative sites are experiencing, it seems that Google had a market for Reader, but perhaps it had no idea how to monetize it, and that was the real bottom line.


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  1. Ray Redbad said on March 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    For those like me who don’t need browser-fed RSS on a wireless device or move among dozens of systems, I’ve settled on this superb desktop app: QuiteRSS. Has its own QTWebkit browser embedded. I’ve got it running on three systems and on a portable version which I’ve run OK on two of my friends’ systems. Only downside is if you add a new feed, you’ve got to update all individually. A minor effort in the mission to stuff it to google.

    I’ll look at TOR when they allow accounts to be built. The present google and Facebook logins are unacceptable.

  2. hellonearthis said on March 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Google may bring out at new Google reader with integration into google drive at Google IO.

    How could google not make money off reader. RSS feeds contained Google ads must have counted as something as well as ad in google reader and the data from likes/+1 would be useful for search data.

    It’s a fail by Google.

  3. Christoph Wagner said on March 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

    @karbi: That’s pretty much the major disadvantage of TOR, you need to use Google to login.

  4. karbi said on March 19, 2013 at 9:31 am

    How to do the OPML import ?
    Do I need to login to Old Reader website first, using Google authentication ?
    Can I do this without loggin in using Google.

    Please explain.

  5. Coyote said on March 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Good thing patience is a virtue. ToR is still waiting in line…. 25k on thursday, down to 9k today.

    And as for all the petitions, crying, and gnashing of teeth I doubt google will do anything at all. If they truly weren’t evil they would have seen the reaction on the first 2 days and apologized and agreed to either continue support for reader or promised to support those that want to continue it.

    Sadly I was wanting to be a google whore, maybe I already am, but from this point on google is no longer my dependable loyal watch dog I’d once thought.

  6. Dan said on March 19, 2013 at 12:07 am

    I use Netvibes but I tried using Feedspot and The Old Reader (I tried the Newsblur demo but it was painfully slow, so I didn’t bother to sign up). I was lucky that there were only 17 people on queue when I tried to import to TOL. After using all three service, I decided that Netvibes is the one for me.

    As for Feedly, I dislike having to install a browser extension just to use a “cloud” service.

  7. Jojo said on March 18, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I hope you guys will revisit the list of potential RSS Readers in say, a couple of months.

    As for Google charging for Reader, take a look at Google financials. They have plenty of cash (around $50 billion) and just a few billions of debt. They don’t need your measly $$! Even if say 3 million people were actually willing to cough up maybe $50/year for a previously free service (pay up or we’ll kill the puppy!), that would only generate $150 million in revenue. Hardly anything against a company with a market value of around $260 billion.

  8. Stefan said on March 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Hi there,

    I’m using TinyTinyRss as an alternative for Google Reader from now on. It is like using a self hosted wordpress instead of 10 minutes and you are fine with it. Good bye GoogleReader (forever).


  9. Paulo Brabo said on March 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Obviously we shouldn’t trust the official reasons Google offered for killing Reader. The demise of Reader is a massive statement on how Google believes the internet *should not be read:* [1] as a private, unmediated experience (as opposed to a “social” reading experience, say facebook, twitter or Plus) and [2] with an open standard (RSS) serving as a direct link between reader and content producer.

    I use Reader A LOT – more than any other Google product, but I’m kind of grateful for the wake up call. It reminds me that Google won’t hesitate before cancelling any other service, even one that feels as “natural” as, say, blogger. Blogging is declining in usage as much as Reader, I guess.

  10. Matt said on March 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I’m still hoping HiveMined or something else will deliver.

    – I decided against Feedly because of its required browser extension (why is that needed?) and their lack of any real privacy policy that I could find.
    – The Old Reader isn’t currently an option because it requires sign-in via Google or Facebook. I don’t have/want a Facebook account, and I hope to be free of a Google account sooner than later.
    – Newsblur I’ve flirted with in the past, but it’s just quirky enough visually and behaviorally to make me feel uncomfortable using it. Maybe that’ll improve, though.

  11. Patrick van Elk said on March 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    If you have some server space available somewhere, then Tiny Tiny RSS ( is also a good alternative. Selfoss ( looks nice too, but I haven’t (really) tried it yet.

  12. Christoph Wagner said on March 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Besides minor annoyances I’m now happily a paying customer of NewsBlur. Not only does it seem to have a solid business model, it’s free (you pay for the hosting, not for the software) & open source, really impressively fast (granted, only when it works which is rather rare while they are so overloaded) and the interface actually enables me to go even faster through huge amounts of posts :)

  13. B. Moore said on March 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    all they had to do was charge $ for google reader and ALL problems would have been solved.

    but no…. they want to make money on ads and thats it.


    1. JohnMWhite said on March 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Charging money for a basic news feed service that millions of people had gotten used to using free wouldn’t exactly solve their problems, it would just create animosity. The trouble with companies that are beholden to shareholders rather than a private individual or group is that they cannot seem to handle the concept of loss-leaders. If a division isn’t making profit, they will kill it, because every component of the business is supposed to be making money, and they entirely forget that maybe sometimes providing a service out of goodwill is a method of making money in the bigger picture.

      I notice a lot of people throwing around the idea that we should suddenly just start paying for a reader. That may be nothing more than a trifle for an IT professional solidly moving through their career and making a good living by keeping on top of technology news and trends, but millions of average users just want to keep track of a few blogs and topics that catch their interest, and expecting them to suddenly pay for an aggregator seems a big ask.

      1. Christoph Wagner said on March 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm

        @Matt: It’s 64 last I checked. He seems to always be lagging behind in landing page updates. The Landing page said 64 when it was cut to 12 for a time, now that the landing page is finally updates he seems to have bumped up the level to 64 again, kinda confusing :D

        @JohnMWhite: I’d say for those people The Old Reader (or any of the other clones, though seeing just the clones TOR seems the best) is perfect. For me the features Newsblur has is well worth the price, even though I’m only at 58 feeds after using the announcement for some spring cleaning :D $2/Months? I couldn’t even get a small coffee for that.

      2. JohnMWhite said on March 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

        64 isn’t that much really. A non-professional but vaguely net savvy user might have a dozen or so memebase feeds to keep an eye on alone, then there’s a plethora of blogs and news sites. It’s not unusual to have more than 64 Facebook friends, what if most of them have a blog? Your feeds are pretty much used up before you even start adding your lolcats and your gossip columns. 64 is a reasonable number for a free service, don’t get me wrong, but after being spoiled with Reader’s freedom, it’s just an artificial ceiling that doesn’t seem justifiable. The idea that people should be expected to downgrade their expectations or start paying money just because Google got bored rubs me the wrong way. I don’t expect everything to be free, but when it has been free for long enough it becomes a bit much to start expecting everybody to pay for it, and to throw out the idea of paying for a subscription as if money isn’t hard to come by for some people. If you can afford it, great, but don’t expect everybody to hop on board or to not have a problem with suddenly being charged for a basic function that was free for years.

        A limit of 12 feeds is just a waste of time. I imagine that’s a temporary measure to control traffic at the moment but it says it all about Google’s decision. They’ve swamped their own competition while pretending that they didn’t have enough users to justify continuing Reader.

      3. Matt said on March 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm

        @Christoph Wagner, it appears the number of feeds for a free Newsblur account has been reduced to 12.

      4. Christoph Wagner said on March 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        I’d assume 64 free feeds on Newsblur are enough in that case. Though people like that are probably more interested in a magazine-reader like Feedly anyway.

    2. Nebulus said on March 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Google is an advertising company, not a technology one. From Wikipedia: “In 2011, 96% of Google’s revenue was derived from its advertising programs.” (citing a 2012 Google annual report).

  14. Karl J. Gephart said on March 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I agree, Alan. Still, without reliable importing from a file, I’m not going to manually subscribe to my 110 feeds and hope it eventually works. I have tried about a dozen alternatives, and have been unhappy with either layout, functionality, feed updating, server latency, memory consumption (clients), or the unknown likelihood of updates. I’ll just wait to see what happens with developers like DIGG in the next three months before jumping the boat. Google’s foolish to not integrate the Reader into Google+ with the sharing possibilities.

  15. Coyote said on March 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    You didn’t state if the que put you off ToR, I signed up last week from work and am still 22K+ in the que.

    Sad too because it does look and act like to old reader. As far as feedly goes, it makes a great app on my tablet but the PC version needs work. The layouts, the columns the entire view seems squished to fit some arbitrary screen size. Unfortunately they were the only ones to do a seamless feed sync and are stable enough to use at the moment.

    Please keep us updated on ToR, I would like to use it, when things calm down and their servers aren’t being swarmed.

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