This post is not about the day to day operations of The Old Reader or anything of that nature. It’s about how our team came to get involved with RSS and how we see the future of this application and technology that we value so highly.
As a long time user of RSS and Google Reader, I’ve long appreciated the benefits of the technology. Like many people, my use of Google Reader faded a bit as social media platforms took hold. But, I’d always go back to Google Reader when I wanted to cut through the noise of social networks and focus on things I’m really passionate about. Google Reader wasn’t my “second screen” application where I’d go to take a break from work. It filled a much more essential need for me by providing these three features:
1. Unread items are kept in a queue. I don’t miss things. No algorithm chooses what to show me or not show me.
2. It’s an archive of blogs that I value and posts that I’ve read.
3. I can follow whatever I want from anywhere on the web. It embodies the open web.
For my professional career in web research and development, I can’t really live without these features. I can follow twitter feeds or like Facebook pages, but I’m certain to miss important content from people who I highly value. I need those items queued, archived, and I need to be able to subscribe to anybody on the entire open web. I can’t be limited to those authors who choose to enter into private social networks and I don’t want to have to constantly check my accounts for updates.
So this leads me to how we got involved in The Old Reader. When Google Reader shut it’s doors, my business partner Jim did some research and tried several services and suggested I’d like The Old Reader the best. So we both moved on over. I read some articles trying to understand why Google Reader would shut down and one really stuck with me. It hypothesized that Google had been following the lead of companies like Facebook and Twitter by turning their backs on the open web and trying to build their own private/closed social networks. It’s frankly hard to argue against this theory.
However, we see this trend of migrating from the open web to private networks as cyclical. How long will it be before your Facebook stream is so full of promoted content, bizarre algorithmic decisions, and tracking cookie based shopping cart reminders that you won’t be getting any valuable information? For as little as $60, a business can promote a page to Facebook users. It won’t be long before your news feed is worthless. So we jumped at the opportunity to get involved with developing and managing The Old Reader. We believe in it.
As we’ve been looking to grow our engineering team at Levee Labs and The Old Reader we’ve met with a number of bright young people that are surprisingly unaware of RSS. They say “I recognize the RSS icon, but haven’t really ever used it.” Is it possible that there is a lost generation of internet users that are completely unfamiliar with RSS? Are they unfamiliar with the idea of the open web too? We believe that’s the case and we’ve been working hard to come up with ideas that’ll expose that generation to RSS, The Old Reader, and the open web. It’s what made the internet great to begin with and it’s coming back.
Thanks for using The Old Reader!