Monday, September 13, 2010

RIP Bloglines. So is the feed next?

Bloglines is closing - at last.

It was a mercy killing. I started out with NetNewsWire on OS X, but Bloglines is what I remember -- starting in 2004. They were good then. When Reader first appeared in October 2005 Bloglines was clearly superior.

In 2006 Bloglies was acquired by, and they rolled out a nice constrained search feature.

That was the high water mark. After the acquisition Bloglines was put in the freezer, but Reader kept getting better. I started playing with Reader in late 2006, but I was still a Bloglines guy in July 2007. I did note, however, that the feeds were updating erratically.

That was a bad sign, but not as bad a sign as the failure to develop a mobile version of Bloglines. My iPhone made me switch to Reader for good in August of 2008. By September of 2008 there was no comparison - Google Reader was clearly better.

In retrospect Bloglines died in July 2007 -- more than three years ago. I assume kept it around while they looked for a buyer who'd sell it into the corporate marketplace. (I tried to persuade that this was a good idea). Maybe Bloglines had some secret revenue somehow.

Even though Bloglines was well past its due date, the formal expiration has produced the usual comments about the death of the Feed Reader. I am sure none of those commentators actually used Bloglines in the past year or two.

Even if we disregard the uninformed, however, it is true that Onfolio (Win), Omea Pro, and Newsgator Inbox all expired alongside Bloglines. They were done in by the combination of Outlook 2007 (abysmal reader - like OS X, but workflow is good) and Google Reader. On the other hand, iOS and Android have produced a new crop of very useful clients (albeit all Reader clients!) and OS X has Safari (fair) and NetNewsWire (still!).

Between Outlook 2007, Google Reader, and OS X/iOS/Android readers we're probably neutral to positive across the Feed Reader landscape over the past four years. What about use of feeds then? Google has some numbers ...
Official Google Reader Blog: A welcome and a look back 
... Since Reader's fifth anniversary is also approaching (though it feels like yesterday, Reader was launched on October 7, 2005), we thought it might be a good time to reflect on how Reader has grown over the past few years.... Here's a graph of Reader users over time (where 'user' is defined as someone who has used Reader at least once a week)...
And as we found out this past April, Reader users sure do like to read lots of items. Here's another graph, this time of the number of items read per day...
The graphs would be more interesting if the y axis were (cough) labeled, but there's pretty respectable growth -- albeit with a 2010 plateau that's only now turned upwards again.

As a consumer of feeds I can report the quality remains excellent. Some of my favorite writers have slowed down, but many of them do return over time.  I particularly appreciate the combination of direct feeds and shared items from the Readers I follow. The Notes/Comments muckup makes my teeth ache, but Reader remains one of Google's best products.

Readers aren't for everyone (though they should be), but for infovores they are red hot data joy. It's a big world, and the infovore community is big enough, and geek-powerful enough, that feeds and readers have years to go.

After all, Google is clearly a fan.

1 comment:

Martin said...

I might read less content via feeds, however, I read more and more substantial and professional content and less and less of IT/geek/… junk.

Facebook, Twitter, … cannot replace RSS, there is simply too much noise and insufficient information.

Feeds are not dead and full text feeds in particular seem to be more common. Heavy reading, however, was never for everyone, most people seem to do just fine with news snippets and therefore don't need feeds, the notifications of their iPhone news app are enough.