It’s inevitable, but still sad that Google is shutting down Google Reader rather than letting it (and its valuable API that allows so many services to use it for a syncing backend) die a long and gentle death.
The “social web” is a fascinating beast. When I first started blogging in 2002, I was enamored with the idea of having a domain name that reflected who I was and a place to put my ideas, pictures, scraps, polished pieces and serve as my home base of a digital footprint.
Geeks and folks on the web needed a way to stay in touch with updates from friends and people they were interested in. I experimented with Newsgator, FeedDemon, Liferea (LInux FEed REAder during my time using Ubuntu as my OS from 2006-2009) but finally settled with Google Reader as my hub of consuming online content.
In many ways, Google Reader was the first Facebook NewsFeed for nerds, geeks, web heads and those of us who cared about the web.
When 2006 – 2007 came and birthed Twitter and Facebook’s rapid growth, things changed quickly. The idea of having your own webspace was traded for the ability to leverage something like Twitter or Facebook’s growing user base for exposure. You didn’t have to explain feeds, that ugly orange RSS button or readers to your friends and family and you could just point them to your name. The walled gardens won.
Here’s a great post from Tantek laying out similar themes of loss-yet-optimism for a new hope:
On Silos vs an Open Social Web [#indieweb] – Tantek: “The answer is not to not ‘only [be] relevant to geeks’, but rather, reframe it as a positive, and be relevant to yourself. That is, design, architect, create, and build for yourself first, others second. If you’re not willing to run your design/code on your own site, for your primary identity on the web, day-in and day-out, why should anyone else? If you started something that way but no longer embrace it as such, start over. Go Selfdogfood or go home.”
This can easily be dismissed as one of those “first world problems” for geeks who care too much about whatever the open web happens to be. However, many many people still use the backend plumbing of RSS to do great things and change the world. You use RSS more than you realize anytime you do most anything on the web (outside and inside of walled gardens).
I’ll admit, this has definitely caused me to re-ponder my own web existence. This is a self-hosted WordPress blog, but my personal blog with my name on it at samharrelson.com is hosted through the awesome Shareist service that I love. Should I move that back to self-hosting so that I can self-dogfood?
One of the many things I’ll be pondering in the coming days as I think about the way the web is heading the next few years.
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