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Google’s decision to kill Google Reader was a turning point in enabling media to be manipulated by misinformation campaigns. The difference between individuals choosing the feeds they read & companies doing it for you affects all other forms of media.
240 replies and sub-replies as of Apr 03 2018

I didn’t even use Reader that much, but its social model more closely mirrored the old LiveJournal dynamic, which isn’t inherently broken. (FriendFeed got this right, too.) And that made it more resilient to distortion, which matters more in tools used by those who create media.
The point is not that huge numbers of people used Google Reader. It’s that lots of people who *make media* did. Instead, they look at a feed generated by an opaque, unaccountable algorithm whose board member thinks nothing of destroying media companies & funding misinformation.
The same people who think Google Reader didn’t matter because it didn’t have tons of users think Twitter matters less in culture than Instagram because it has fewer users. But _you’re reading this_. YouTube Creator Studio doesn’t have many users, but it has huge impact on media!
Anyway, the reason we made the @glitch community open source is so that someday soon, when we suggest apps for you to check out, you’ll be able to see the reason why they were recommended. And if you don’t like it, you can help improve it. It’s all doable.
Glitch launched in beta a year ago. Today, we’re making a big leap forward: The community is now open-source.…
Wow. This is great. Wish I'd encountered it 6 years ago. Web 1.0 was groundbreaking; early web 2.0 was delightful.
Thank you for putting this in an understandable way for us non-techies.
How much code do I need to know to use this? Looks hard.
None. You can just use the apps and you’re good. We’re going to make it easier to discover them & experiment with interesting apps.
Send me a link to download. Is there an android version?
larry page was the only person who didn't think google reader didn't matter who matters.
Is it Google's fault that I didn't know what Google Reader did?
I highly doubt Fox News personalities were big consumers of feeds from Reader. I equally doubt that they would ignore the President elect/foreign interference in favor of Reader due to some moral compass.
That's why I consume most of the services via (a still internal) service that combines everything - feeds, social media, semi-structured content on websites (where there's no feeds), video/podcasts etc. Precise filters, tracking changes. Knowledge is power.
Feedly and other RSS readers still exist
You think Google Reader media types went to getting news sourced from Facebook? In my observation most of the Reader demographic simply moved over to Twitter versions of their favorite feeds.
What if we reverted to google reader based feeds where “experts” or people dedicated to maintain the feeds and curating them (as real people) were the editors (and received some compensation)? I would gladly pay for something like this as it would prob be better than anything.
You’re making the decision to kill Google Reader feel more insidious and intentional.
Glad I followed U… I SWEAR, sometimes, I ain't Ur target follower, tho! Have me like, "hmmph… yeah… that's a… huh…welp… hmmph…" 🐺🤔😳😬
That's exactly the point, if you're talking about a "turning point".
Aah, Google Reader, the Velvet Underground of news readers
Made media in my last job, can confirm. Reader was our main source for aggregating and sorting daily stories. Using Feedly now at home and work but nothing had the mass reach/awareness of Google Reader.
If it mattered to media creators, they can still use a tool like Feedly.
It was a great tool, and there was no good reason for killing it. It was a product of a lost time in which the Internet was un-curated.
I miss google reader.
inoreader is a fantastic replacement that I've been using ever since
Me too. I try to use Flipboard to get diverse news and commentary, but it’s not the same or even close.
I loved Google Reader, at the time I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was it was being put to pasture, hoping for a comeback now... any options you can recommend?
Justice for Google Reader! 😭
I'm still mad about Google Reader's death. I use feedly as a similar tool, but the Google structure was so simple and to the point. I used it every damn day and I still miss it.
netvibes was even better at the social side! boy do i miss reader + netvibes...
You mean this mostly re: veracity, but not perspective, yeah? I.e., people could’ve still chosen to read with tunnel vision but were less likely to choose pizzagate?
gReader and now Digg Reader are both dead without established replacements. Friendfeed is dead and replaced with the opacity you note. There's no appetite for creating resilience to distortion. Please create @glitch for Media and lmk how I can assist.
Reader really had that much penetration to have such an impact?
Amongst those who make media, yes.
Reader was immune from weaponization as a dumb pipe, but most people didn’t use that pipe to get news. And the actual news itself was already bad/fake — it took a country/program to exploit our pipes to amplify its distribution.
Every blogger and reporter I knew was glued to Reader.
Outside of some tech people, no one I know used Google Reader….. which is also why there is no more Google Reader.
How many people use YouTube Creator Studio vs YouTube overall? Does that mean YouTube should shut down Creator Studio?
I agree, and wish it was still around. My point was I think you are overvaluing the impact of the shutdown. People have always wanted to be fed the news….. this is not a new phenomenon, just thanks to tech companies have gotten better at it.
On the other hand, I don’t know anyone in tech and EVERYONE I hung out with at the time used Google Reader. Clearly, your mileage may vary.
I think it was widely used by political junkies and other types of people who specialized in their news content (science, etc.), but by shuttering it Google enabled twitter, and twitter (an internet forum)--by virtue of its celebrity cachet--elevated the trolls.
...i mean, I'm not in Tech, and I knew tons of people using Reader
Google reader was so good it was basically THE rss reader and I absolutely believe shutting it down played a part in getting us here.
This! I so miss google reader. I know there are alternatives out there but many of us have never made the transition.
is as good as Reader. Perhaps better after all the time that has been put into it. Easy to move. Still using RSS. Couldn't live without it. Don't know if your feeds are still available if you sign in with Google or not though.
Readers are being used a lot more recently, but most people never made the jump because of the work involved in re-subscribing to everything, especially with Facebook timelines seeming to do a lot of that work at the time. I've started using @TheOldReader.
Do it! I've recently started again and loving how great it is to be back in control of what I read and when . Feedly is great on desktop and mobile.
Maybe we need the social media equivalent of PBS
Do you really think Reader would have significantly impacted Facebook's growth? I think 98% would have taken the path of least resistance to FB even if we had Reader the entire time.
I'm afraid RSS is/was super-niche.
Interesting point on curation. But, as someone who ran a blog, I remember seeing RSS subscriptions decline dramatically each year before Reader’s demise.
That's the exact correlation I was mentioning last week. That pivotal moment signaled to app developers, business folks, and advertising that the entire model of gathering news online would move from any active controlled process to a passive uncontrolled one.
Good thing that good 'ol RSS feeds will always work as long as RSS is provided by websites/journals :)
Except if they monetize their content the feed is only the first few words of each post. Real tragedy is, we're living in times in which that which is not monetized simply doesn't happen.
May I point you towards the copyleft and free software movements?
I miss Google Reader as much as anyone but I think this vastly overrates how much influence it had. They could kill it precisely because so few people actually used it.
The turning point was social media, not GR.
It is startling how quickly everyone decided they could get their news from social media.
Twitter has replaced Reader as the RSS river.
Was it that google killed Reader or that the forces that got benefit from not having RSS as a broad standard were able to achieve its demise?
Seems possible that even with an individuals-choose model the feed providers could manipulate their feeds per-subscriber, achieving the same nefarious ends. Users may be able to stay ahead for a while longer though.
I loved Google Reader, and would have used it over social media anyday..
I literally said this yesterday (but in many less words) I agree, I think it was a big turning point in how news was pushed and consumed.
Everything went bad when Google killed Reader.
But IMHO it's less that reader was killed, and more than RSS fell out of favour because of it. This has allowed pages to be filled with malware and tracking, and allows a big push to AMP, which itself is also terrible and broken and setting up a "garden fence" around content.
So this is all @shellen's fault? I knew it.
Miss reader..
the only reason i joined twitter was the death of Reader. It's a very different dynamic, but at heart i just use twitter to find articles, posts, etc. it's just that the noise is vastly higher and nearly impossible to curate here.
Fwiw I use Feedly after GR’s demise and could never get average folks even the little bit excited about RSS to begin with ...
Recurring plot line in my life: how can I get an RSS feed from <platform>?
I miss google reader so much! I never thought about it like this but it’s so true - it connected me to individual blogs that I am 1. now missing or 2. access only when linked on fb or ig.
Interesting take but something makes me believe it wasn’t that big.
Not arguing that it was big.
They can’t insert ads into the reader feed without being removed... We are going back to RSS/Atom feeds and people may find peace of mind again
even though Twitter has become more algorithmic, I feel I'm still able to shape my feed with news, sources, and commentators that I feel are trustworthy and relevant. I don't feel like that with Facebook, even with a limited friend list.
I would pay for Google Reader if they bring it back.
You're giving Google Reader too much credit, and readers not enough blame. It's a person's responsibility to be properly informed. The problem is a lack of critical thinking combined with the cognitive dissonance of the political tribalism pervasive in America today.
This from somebody still playing the “both sides do it” false equivalence game.
Nice non-reply, with a dash of straw man thrown in.
These dudes never know how ridiculous they look.
probably because they don't have access to wide range of hand-selected RSS feeds in a straightforward text layout to help them understand multiple perspectives...
Because encouraging critical thinking and not dogmatically following a political party is ridiculous. Got it.
No, those are good ideas. You are ridiculous.
None of that has to do with being sad about losing access to software that allows the user to easily subscribe to and share new information.
There’s plenty of choices for RSS readers. And thankfully competition is better than handling it all to Google. (Shoutout to @Inoreader for showing how a for-profit is sustainable)
We should be more concerned with so many websites dropping RSS/Atom support. Even Google does a lazy implementation on their Keyword blog
It’s worth pointing out that the services that emerged to take the place of Google Reader still exist todayxand have preserved such choice. Many of us continue to use them. I dumped Google long ago over BS like that.
Agree other options exist post google reader. I think Anil is spot on though. eg if Safeway/Luckys stopped carrying organic food, de-mainstreaming would be a big deal/loss even if you could still buy it via other means.
I think Panda was a turning point. Going from search results ranked by relevance to "giving the answer you are looking for" made the algorithm supreme.
The type of people susceptible to the misinformation campaigns you’re talking about were probably less likely to use Google Reader
This is based on the false idea that media people are too “sophisticated” to have been swayed by media manipulation.
Either way, now everyone must get their news from biased or curated or gameable platforms. Dang.
This strikes me as very unlikely to be true.
RSS bait and switch they at Google undermined the other commercial readers and then cut off the project after the other ones lost their licensed users. Typical consolidation strategy here
Hmm yeah on second thoughts... I agree it's unlikely. Way too few people, in the grand scheme, used Google Reader, and that's pretty much why they killed it. It's a small part of the overall trend towards centralization/merging of journalism, but it's by no means a turning point.
Very few people use ProTools. Would you say it’s had an impact on popular media like music?
Google Reader was not a creative tool. However it was (before the redesign) the germ of a real social network. It's filed under my mind as "what could have been" rather than some golden age of truth online
I don’t think it was a creative tool, it was part of the toolkit of media. creators. It was not a golden era of truth, it was just harder to manipulate.
To me the significant moment is when the web went from a participatory to a consumer medium, which is also when it grew by a couple of orders of magnitude. The move from laptop to phones was way more significant to creator culture than Google Reader, whose value is symbolic.
Can argue over which transition drove it, but I’m pointing out this is was one that mattered.
We mildly disagree!
You're both acting like you're on an academic panel, being all polite and stuff. Please adhere to Twitter etiquette!
Nobody is calling eachother names! This is an outrage.
Haha, enjoying this thread. I do agree in the basic premise of controlling your own feeds without the social media algorithms. I worry about my new friends in Myanmar where they are a mobile first culture and use fb for everything.
Some people went from desktops to phones, like Mongolia went from feudalism to socialism, skipping capitalism
Yes the transition from laptop to literally every human beings’ pocket on the planet was the real story here. We will be dealing with the fallout from that for a few more decades.
I think there may be greater than one “real story”.
The real story is the friends we met along the way. 🦄
I’m not here to make friends; I’m here to win.
it was such a hugely essential meaning-discerning tool in certain media because it had a concept of “complete”—you could plausibly know how much of “everything” you had seen on a topic, at least from the people you follow. feeds since have never let you be fully “caught up”
I don't think he's being prelapsarian, and i may be missing the point, but curation is a creative act.
Yeah, what few metrics we have to measure the reaction, nevermind what seems like little success from other RSS services in the aftermath, makes me think that the size of Reader's userbase was orders of magnitude smaller than FB, in size and influence
At the end, I know that Reader was being maintained by two engineers, which is one reason killing it was such an unnecessary affront.
Feedburner was made and run here in Chicago, and over time every major tech co here has been seeded with engineers who’re salty about how Feedburner was handled
I don’t think that refutes my point. “That app had fewer users than Facebook” is true of every app, including Facebook at any earlier point than the present.
I agree it's not just about the size of the userbase. But the demographics/audience types being influenced by fake news were not the same ones who were using Google Reader, i.e. they didn't have voids for viral social/fake news to fill
Google Wave shutdown was the true watershed.
RIP in peace Google Wave
two words: iTunes Ping
Oh shoot google wave was awesome I never really got to use it though.
this was one weird internet conversation.
But to +1 Anil’s point, google reader and other examples like google news and google video were basically deregulated by Google (google doesn’t want authority over them directly). That’s the turning point to where we got social journalism. Glitch can’t fix it either though. Lol.
Also pinboard is amazing, I should look up my account and start using it again. Later yo’s.
Glitch is not trying to fix journalism so… okay?
Now we’re in the twiiiiiliiiiight zooooooone 🎶 😘
I'm pretty proud that I still have no idea what Glitch is.
It’s the future of journalism. 😇😅
It’s a tool for collaboratively coding & hosting apps, and a community for discovering them.
You should add you're not trying to compete with @Pinboard. I hear that goes badly.
why are you like this
Bad genes, poor upbringing, and ate paint chips
I still don't get why I need an algoritm on FB. I should be clic- just my friends post in chron order.
Uh, this is really important. And so true.
I didn’t care about some app and don’t care about it now. Media and manipulation are eternal. It’s a bit aggrandizing to give credit to some reader.:)
Which is why I use Feedly and not other news apps
Often I wonder if we are now in a world where email newsletters and chat (Slack, really) are the best ways to reach your audience (from the POV of a tiny publisher).
Really? But there are other RSS readers. I switched to Feedly and have never had a problem even though I loved Reader. They recently introduced sponsored listings within the feeds, but those are very clearly labeled and not disruptive.
Yes! I am on a semi-quixotic quest to redeem the RSS as primary web feed.
Tying all the nerd likes to #fakenews.
Or, a literate take based on knowing the technology and media sphere really well, for decades.
were that many people using it?
I don't think it's Facebook faults, or any sort of media deliveries fault. There needs to be a middle man that curates big news stories for fact checking, and simply label it as true or untrue. I don't see any accountability in media.
Google going: "screw you now we'll take away next" cc @stevej
I've always used the feed reader built into my browser, and never considered that Google had any business intermediating that.
So the hue and cry over the closure of Reader was and remains a mystery to me. Seems like you're saying it was mostly reporters?
I think there's some truth here. Delivery paradigms influence content. Google reader was one. Yahoo's portal was one. It's a complex system we live in...
There are a number of RSS readers with excellent capabilities available for both Android, and Apple Devices, and Mac and Windows Desktops. @feedly is a good example.
We should get Reader back. Hell, just support it with subscriptions if we have to.
Google Reader was what I used to reconnect after having been completely off the radar for a while in a harsh way. It was the perfect way to get credible, accurate information to professional readers. A niche market to be sure, but the group that produces art. The loss was huge.
I agree google is evil now.
LOL you delicate thing
I see your soul. Everyone does. Its disgusting.
You know everyone can tell why you pathetically lash out at strangers, right?
#projection "You know everyone can tell why you pathetically lash out at strangers, right?"
I cried a bit when Reader was killed...loved that app. I found @feedly and gladly pay for the Pro version to keep this valuable tool alive
with Reader went Listen and was the bigger blow to me :(
Happy to serve! Thanks for the backing 🙏
RSS readers are still around, and people are still free to roam the Web as they always could. If you get all your news from Facebook, RSS is likely beyond your ken anyway.
I wonder though, if it had stayed around, if Google would’ve started monetizing it using promoted post or algorithmic sorting. I still agree it was a major loss.
OK. Why don't we just write a new one?
Also, if you need to decentralise it, Steemit is open source? Fork that and build a new decentralised RSS aggregator.
They don't want the consumer in the driver's' seat. None of the big tech companies do. It hurts the bottom line.
I never knew what Google Reader was... and I worked at Google during most of its lifetime. I heard of it, but never knew why I should care...?
In contrast, I still use Google News. If there were a checkbox for "Only include reputable sources", I'd check it in a flash. Do they still index RT?
Why do you think no other RSS reader filled that gap?
I still read RSS feeds with Feedly... but I also listen to vinyl and preserve my own food. 😐
I've been thinking lately about how Twitter has not so much replaced but usurped the place of RSS readers & how much I miss them.
Do you think many media people use the Google Feed alternative Feedly? That's what I turned to post-Google, and it's been fine.
They do this just regularly but sure seems they set to just take on @Apple
Why I use Feedly
I am still searching for an aggregator to replace it. The best we have now are curated newsletter and twitter...
But you can run your own rss server for free, on a GCE free tier micro-instance, and that's more fun than Reader ever was.
For some definitions of “fun”, sure. But not most people’s.
They killed it because people were reading A TON of news without seeing any ads. It’s all about the benjamins
I was just talking to a friend about how this was the first noticeable sign that Google had changed for the worse. They no longer wanted to help me get what I wanted. They wanted me to be dependent on them. 😕
I don’t know, I think Anil might be on to something here. At the very least, the death of Google Reader precipitated/hastened the demise of RSS, which absolutely *was* a game changer.
It's also why we hang out on Twitter, no? We curate our own feeds here. (In addition the opportunity to interact with our feed.) Yea, peeps scribble profanities on bathroom walls. But it's good to remember they're a small minority. I like to think it's that's way on Twitter too.
It was definitely an off ramp for social media companies to stop trying... I personally still use Feedly + Reeder every day
That’s so true. I loved Google Reader and getting to curate what I read.
I use Apple News. It’s the best thing I’ve used since Google Reader.
Oh snap. You right man.
How do you square that with the years-long push for Google News, which was designed to algorithmically tailor "the news" to be "what we know you already like and agree with"?
so true. and- a turning point in killing off many independent blogs (imho), though medium was likely the nail in the coffin
Oh gawd do I hate medium.
Still going strong with Feedly, Anil. Does the job quite neatly.
RSS is still alive and well for those who care about it. Google Reader likely died from waning interest on both Google's and users' part. Regardless, it never "controlled" RSS either directly or indirectly through network effect.
I never really used Google Reader. Google Flip, which was a google reader beta was amazing though. I wish they would have open sourced it.
If you followed Breitbart, Drudge, Fox, 4chan and Fark RSS feeds, you weren't exactly better informed.
We have to go to a model where the user pays a meaningful sum for news. Shocking i know. But it quickly makes serious misinformation uneconomically viable in the way that charging $1 a stamp would kill junk mail. Issue is humans being willing to pay to be accurately informed.
What are your thoughts on Feedly? They (and other similar newsreaders) made a huge noise about filling that niche. Did no one make the switch? (I did.)
That said, Google Reader felt like losing something, even if there were good replacements. You're putting a finger on why.
Never looked at it this way before, but I totally agree. Cc: @Iheke
I'll take, "Why I use Feedly for $1000."
I would say that I disagree, but there is really nothing to disagree with. This isn't an argument, it's an unfounded claim that you can't prove with evidence. You could try to correlate things, but we all know: correlation != causation.
Just to clarify, because I don't want to be lumped in as a "hater"; I think you guys are doing some incredible and ground breaking work with @glitch. But these types of tweets scare me, when you have over 500,000 minds potentially reading your words. That's a crazy big number.
What scares you? (And thanks for the kind words; the Glitch team is doing great work.)
It scares because it detracts from the larger issue at hand here. Which is twofold; It's been proven that it's hard for us as a society to determine what is truth and what is fake, and we're encouraging a climate of sensationalism which is in-turn feeding misinformation.
I don’t think it detracts, it provides context on how systemic vulnerabilities happen. Like, who’s watching for this as Apple introduces analytics & metrics to podcasts? You see anybody mention it?
Nobody, and that's scary. We're not in disagreement there, I'll take it a step further and agree that these algorithms are surely feeding into this behavior, and it's bad for society. It's not a Google Reader issue, it's a societal issue about where we draw the line on this.
Yep, so I was just identifying one past inflection point. And notice how many dudes replied to me with “well, other feed readers exist!” as if that refuted my point. They’re still ignoring the lesson in favor of tech essentialism.
let's protest outside of google HQ until they bring back reader. WHOS WITH ME!??!?!?
🤓 - Imagine a Google Reader reboot with options for paid subscriptions and the like; Micro payments for content, with premium ad-free versions. Some sort of “EnhancedRSS”, or extension to AMP. I feel there’s a kernel there somewhere, and the timing couldn’t be better
You make a good point but people just like the simpler method that Facebook n Twitter represent -building blogs and managing syndicators made me nothing but a nerd in eye of gen. Public.
Have you looked at Google Newsstand? They've clearly given up on it, but for some reason it just barrages me with partisan stories about US politics, even though I never click any of the stories and live on the other side of the world.
Okay, cool, thanks.
An aptly timed post with the demise of Digg reader just last week but I would posture that social media networks moving to a non linear, curated feed had a bigger impact. Ads in a linear non filtered feed changed things but not to the level of the SM network edited feed.
Except Google reader was killed because it wasn't that popular. There were some vocal fans, myself included, but not a lot of people used it. And there are lots of alternatives offering the same thing.
That doesn’t contradict my point.
I guess I remain unconvinced. While Reader was shutting down, there were several services allowing you to import your Reader list, so it wasn't difficult to continue as before. If you're saying more people just went to Twitter/Fb instead, i guess that would've happened anyway?
I knew the decision to end Reader would result in the end of the Free world as we know it..
Used to be friends wondered what my sources were. Since we all read apple news our redundancy is up 10x. Terrible.
Um, there were many other RSS feeds out there.
Since you know that both Tim & I know that, and I never asserted otherwise, and the “um” can only be used to indicate condescension, I’m curious what insight you think you’re adding?
Ok, I'll try again: You seem to contend that misinformation was begat by the decision to kill Reader, but how can that be true if people could just switch to other feeds? I'm not sure I understand the connection.
Reader allowed one to be an information junkie in completely the opposite way to any of today’s social apps: you chose what info to pull, from where, & when. You got out equal to the effort you put in, whereas now everything goes on humming without you—hence ICYMI-centric feeds.