I don’t use Google Reader. I find the UI brings very little excitement. And the UX (ugh)…Unread post counts make me feel like I have chores to complete, a never ending todo list. I have a large enough todo list already - believe me.
Last week, Google announced it will shut down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. Some would say good riddance - I wouldn’t go so far. Reader wasn’t the best of applications, but it did provide some value. Reader didn’t end world hunger, but I’d argue it did change the world.
Whether we admit it, or not, Reader introduced people to RSS and open data and open standards that, but for, they would not have been privy to. That’s a big deal.
When a grandfather in the middle of Missouri can subscribe to his grandson’s travel blog in Madrid. That’s a big deal.
When there are over 500,000 people who never have to ask, “How do I subscribe to your blog?” That’s a big deal.
But this is not about Google Reader.
This is about the State of the Open Web
Platforms with user generated content are becoming increasingly closed. This concerns me. Twitter and Facebook both quietly killed RSS; Opting for a proprietary API over an open standard in its place.
Believe me, it’s not just RSS either. In the same move to dispatch Reader, Google also quietly killed CalDAV, an open calendar standard, in favor of it’s own proprietary calendar API. What’s next? Shut down IMAP for Gmail?
This isn’t what the web is supposed to be. Those weren’t the type of companies we thought we were helping to build.
Are there better standards? Maybe. Does it matter? Not very much.
The you create content, we sell your content business model of Twitter and Facebook has long drawn a line-in-the-sand. The writing is clear: Use our API or use nothing at all. Our way or the highway. More dictatorship than democracy.
We should all be concerned
If the giants of industry, companies we helped build, don’t support open standards, then why should your local congressman support open government?
If the future of sharing is measured in ROI, then what will the future of freedom be measured in? Should we have to make a business case for the free flow of people and property as well? Whose property?
Everyday, millions of people ask these very questions and it sickens me. Google Reader’s demise is just a painful reminder that freedom of information is slowly losing its God-given place as a foundation of our democracy.
Yet, every rally for open standards, every cry for a more perfect Union is the very deed that keeps evil at bay. What will your deed be?
Because in the final hour, this is not about one company or one product…This is not about Google Reader.
This is about the future.