The Death of Google Reader really meant the death of RSS. The technologies that moved to Google to die – feedburner, pubsubhubbub, blogger, etc. – also diminished the mindshare of RSS. Interestingly, Google was constantly trying to divert resources from these technologies to build their various attempts at social networks. But basically, Reader died so that Google+ could be born. Also, the technologies Google seemed to be trying to distance itself from could be chained together to give the world a truly open social network in the form of OpenSocial or Diaspora and let the users retain control over the content they produced and consumed. It seemed as if Google realized the world actually wants to live in a Bubble, Facebook was moving quickly in that direction, so they followed as quickly as possible.
At, or before, this time, Chris Cox and Paul Buchheit saw this bubble trend and left Google to found FriendFeed which was a hybrid of a totally open social network and a curated news feed. This worked pretty well so Facebook bought it and killed it, integrating a brain-dead version of the feed into their own product.
With Google Reader gone, there was a big hole in the RSS market that was slowly filled by three different types of readers. First, you had the Google Reader knock-offs which are now dominated by Feedly. Second, you had the next-generation readers like Flipboard which presented their content in a magazine format and was highly curated. Third, you had Twitter and Facebook Bubbles injecting news into your social feeds based on your previous interactions. The main difference between the three are the level of curation: Feedly – you curate everything; Flipboard – you curate some things (categories to follow); Facebook/Twitter – you curate nothing (Twitter gives you the appearance of curation, but sponsored tweets ruins this).
Looking back at the demise of RSS and the growth of the Bubble, it seems like an utterly obvious de-evolution of technology. How complicit were these companies in destroying self-curated news feeds?
The point of this post is to puzzle out a few questions:
- Why didn’t RSS go mainstream? (Google Reader folded)
- Why do people believe Facebook and Twitter are news sources? (They know no better way)
- If Facebook is turning into a news stream, why should I stay? (I probably should not)
How can we get people to think for themselves? How can we get people interested in curating on their own?
I’m beginning to think this is no longer possible.