Google Reader was a Google Pigpen product

pigpengoogle-20101112-053824(Note: This blog post rated G, for “Geeky”)

While I’ve used Google Reader to catch and organize content syndicated via RSS, I’ve never used Google Reader as a news reader. (I’ll explain how in just a second.)

To understand why I’ve never been a fan of Google Reader as a reader, it might be helpful to read a long-ago post I wrote about Lucy Google Products vs. Pigpen Google Products. My point in that post was (and still is), you can usually tell when Google is very committed to a new product (when you can connect dots from the product to something that competes with  Apple, Facebook, Microsoft or Amazon) and when it isn’t (it usually has the term “labs” associated with it).

And, unfortunately for everyone who could have been better served by a great RSS newsreader, Google Reader has always been as “Pigpen” as it gets. It just never felt like it had a champion inside Google with enough clout to make it anything more than mediocre.

But because it was from Google, other developers chose to create veneers to wrap over Google Reader’s Pigpen-ness, rather than to actually compete with it. For most of the past couple of years, for instance, I’ve used some such, uh, veneer-ware, called Reeder, a “client” that hides Google Reader while using it with a better interface. However, RSS syndication can be used in so many ways, it is something different for everyone, so what’s good for me, doesn’t work for others.

Yesterday, Google did what it ultimately does with most of its Pigpen projects: It announced Google Reader’s mercy killing.

While it may seem like that’s a bad thing (my Twitter stream seems to think it is), it isn’t. As Instapaper creator Marco Arment blogged yesterday, “We’re finally likely to see substantial innovation and competition in RSS desktop apps and sync platforms for the first time in almost a decade.”

In other words, maybe people who use RSS everyday without knowing it, will be able to understand how to use it to make their lives simpler. And maybe otherwise seemingly smart people will get over their ridiculous notion that RSS is dead or that it can be replaced by Twitter feeds.

And maybe people who use stealth RSS readers like Flipboard, will finally understand how RSS is hidden throughout the internet’s tubes.

I used to attempt to get my friends to use a newsreader. For whatever reason, most never quite got it. It’s one of the few things I use that I consider a competitive advantage and a tool I couldn’t operate professionally without. I decided to stop wasting time trying to give that secret away.


  • Great points. I too gave up long ago on using it as an actual reader and was routing it to Flipboard and Feedly.

  • Great post. For me, it was the service of syncing my activity across various reading apps on various devices and platforms that was so valuable. I could read posts on the train on my iPad and know that when I checked an hour later at my desk via web browser I’d only see new, unread posts. I hope that cross-platform syncing bit doesn’t get lost in the rush to build new and pretty front-end reader apps…