RSS is dead, long live RSS!
The announcement yesterday that Google would be, finally, sunsetting the Google Reader service was met with disappointment, anger and confusion but with a small counterpoint of "it will force innovation".
Some say it might even be the final nail in the RSS coffin.
The focus on Google+, both as a service and an all-encompassing social layer, is being placed firmly in the frame for Reader's demise with Brian Shih, former Google Reader product manager, taking to Quora to give his thoughts on why this is so: social.
Ever since Google killed the social aspect of reader, because of Plus, the writing has been on the wall for the RSS reader with Shih saying:
"Ironically, I think the reason Google always wanted to pull the Reader team off to build these other social products was that the Reader team actually understood social"
The official announcement justified the move by saying "usage of Google Reader has declined" and that the continuing focus will lead to better products.
Consumption of news and blogs via RSS has declined partly because of a shift towards social news and, for Google Reader specifically, because of that very move by Google: hamstringing their own product in order to migrate people's social activity to Plus.
The decision to streamline services into a cohesive structure and improve the user experience is welcomed but what hasn't happened yet in a number of cases is any move to integrate certain obvious products with Google+.
Blogger has always been an obvious target for integration followed very closely by Reader.
Saving Private RSS
Equally as ironic as social killing Reader, it could also be its saviour - Google+ in particular.
The recent Google+ profile redesign gives us more control over how our information is viewed and compartmentalised. As well as our "links" and "contributor to" sections why not have an option for RSS feeds both for Profiles and Pages?
Any RSS feeds we own could be published on our profile and, when circled, our feed items could automatically be placed into smart "Feeds" Circles displaying just those items from all the authors we follow as a river of news.
Why stop there?
Why not then give us the ability to categorise feeds just as we can create categories for posts within Communities? An RSS "Circle" could then become an amalgam of the best of both Circles and Communities. Could we then even stretch to allowing others to follow our curated RSS streams?
The emphasis is on getting as much data into Google+ as possible in order to generate a wealth of social signals; while Google has resisted adding the ability to auto-post, the social sharing of content from those authors we explicitly follow would be prime example of the good use of such behaviour.
Integrating elements of the technology behind managing RSS feeds, which currently exist in Reader, into Google+ and providing a much easier and more consistent means to re-sharing the content to our Circles fits with the apparent aims and simplifies the processes involved for the end-user.
Whilst I completely support Google's move to amalgamate services and combine our data to provide a more valuable, streamlined experience the methods employed sometimes seem haphazard and confused.
Integrating RSS feeds into Google+ would not only serve to continue the rich tradition built with Google Reader (thus appeasing current users) but also expose additional users to consuming news via RSS feeds (without, perhaps, even realising it) and meet Google's goals of sharing more data to the social product.
Further discussion on this topic has suggested that Google could/should consider integrating its other news reading application Currents which might easily fit with the more visual direction Google+ is taking.