How Google+ could save RSS.

RSS is dead, long live RSS!

Google Reader logoThe 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"

Focus

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.

Confused

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.

Update

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.

  1. empoprises says: #
    For whatever reason, Google+ has refused to incorporate RSS feeds into its service since day one. Should this happen, that might be the final nail in the coffin for Facebook subsidiary FriendFeed.
  2. I Google Now would also be a good product to integrate RSS into or at least replicate features that people use in RSS, such as keeping track of new articles being publish on websites, bringing it to the user attention, it could also developed to recognise which articles are high priority and decide whether it should issue an notification to the user or whether it low priority and the user should decide whether they should read it or not when they have time to review all update websites.
    1. Colin says: #
      I don’t think RSS really ties in to Google Now as that is intended for location based items. Perhaps if RSS was tied to your Google profile via Plus and something came in to one of your feeds related to where you were/what you were doing but it would have to be a particular type of post.
  3. RSS and OPML are decentralized tech.
    You have control over the news/content you read and if you want you can take the RSS/OPML it with you to another service if you are not pleased or just want to try something new.
    google, fb, and twitter all want to control the content you have access to on “their” services. They want to be the gate keepers and it is not their financial interest to give support decentralized tech that prevents them from controlling the content you have access to.
  4. C Batsta says: #
    It’s pretty straightforward:

    – Google, like the other players, want control of my environment for their own benefit (specifically, to monetize my behavior).

    – I want control of my environment for the benefit of me.

    This is becoming a major battleground, not least because of how Google et al are going about it. They’ve successfully lured people into their proprietary walled-gardens by offering interesting and useful functionality. But by doing so, they’re taking us back to the closed days of Compuserve, AOL, etc.

    I personally have no interest in that backwards step into walled gardens that benefit the provider at the expense of the consumer. Perhaps others will wake up and think likewise.

    >>> Any RSS feeds we own could be published on our profile and, <<<

    Not to be rude, but why the heck is it assumed I want to automatically expose to the world-at-large exactly what I'm reading?
    If someone want to pay me to share such information, then perhaps I might be interested at a price, but I have zero interest in my thoughts and interests being harvested by others for their sole financial benefit.

  5. Colin says: #
    @efemurl – on the contrary, I feel it is very much in these company’s interests to support the open web (why else do they all support data portability).

    In the case of Google, our RSS subscriptions are such a good signal as to our likes/interests/passions that getting this data into Plus provides great value for both engagement on the network AND for enhanced ad targeting.

    @C Batsta – Who said anything about walled gardens? Google allows us to take our data with us (Google Takeout) but integration fits with the goal to streamline the user experience. Use it or don’t, iit’s your choice.

    It’s the same with sharing – everything is down to choice, choose to share items from your feeds if you feel the need to do so. Many RSS power-users use it for curation so an integrated solution simplifies the process for Plus users.

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