It’s been just over five years since Google shut down the Google Reader. I was surprised to see a lot of people are still bitter with them about it, even though *ahem* independent alternatives continue to exist and thrive.
I get it though. I was one of the millions of people who got my news from Google Reader. But it was infuriating to watch them kill a useful tool and then invest billions in magic glasses, killer drones, and self-driving cars.
So while it’s okay to be bitter, I think most of us probably realize we’re all better off with them gone. RSS took a serious hit that day, and use remains down. But in many ways, RSS is in a healthier and more sustainable position.
It’s now clear that the demise of the Google Reader was first really loud warning that you can’t rely on a publicly traded, profit-driven Silicon Valley tech company to deliver content. There is no way that story ends well. They will feed you sponsored crap, undermine your democracy, or pull the rug out from under your feet entirely.
I’m not going to pretend life is necessarily easier with Google gone from the game. The problem is that the tech giants are successful because they make things so easy. I know that RSS may never have as many users as it once did when Google was invested in it.
But online publishing isn’t supposed to be easy. And being an informed citizen isn’t supposed to be easy, either. The idea that we just casually check our phone every hour or so and Google, Twitter, or Facebook would give us a quick dose of everything we need to read is a fantasy.
When Google got out of the RSS game, those of us who remained realized that yes, we can survive without them. Five years later, RSS is still the best, most unfiltered way to get content you want. There’s a greater diversity of choices and no one company dominates everything. So let’s stop hoping Facebook or Twitter or someone else will do our job for us. Let’s stop waiting for someone to tell us what we want to read. Let’s stop publishing what they want us to publish. We can do better without them.