This week brought Google’s long-feared announcement that it will euthanize Google Reader, which will cease July 1. Some are interpreting the move as a death knell for RSS. And indeed, where RSS (and Atom) used to be the only widely-used, machine-readable feed infrastructure for Internet content, we now live in a world marked by new ways to discover new articles, posts, and updates to read, most notably social feeds powered by networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
But Google Reader, both the API and the user-facing web site, are just tools for using the underlying technology of RSS. And we at betaworks do not agree — one bit — that RSS as a technology is dead, or even dying. Rather, we think RSS is evolving, nudged by the explosion of social networks and social feeds. We think there are lots of useful products and valuable companies yet to be built in this space.
More generally, we believe that reading as an activity still matters: the display and delivery may change (from paper to big screens to small screens and tablets, from human carriers to wires to wireless), but reading remains one of the most wonderful parts of civilization. We’ve bet on reading in the past and we’re going to keep making those bets.
In the area of RSS, in particular, we’re doubling down, but in ways that we think are different from traditional “RSS Readers.” Our biggest commitment is Bloglovin’, one of our studio companies. Bloglovin’ is a beautiful and simple web-based blog (RSS) reader — that helps you follow the blogs you read by letting you know when they update. Their audience is broad, with over 2 million accounts and a particular strength in women’s lifestyle and fashion. In response to the Google announcement, bloglovin’ released a single-click importer to give users a seamless way to move all of their feeds and favorite blogs to bloglovin’.
We are also investors in Superfeedr, a real-time publish-and-subscribe service. Superfeedr aggregates and publishes RSS feeds, saving publishers money and allowing users to get information even faster. We’re also investors in IFTTT, which connects services — including RSS feeds — through “recipes” that users can create and share.
Last, we already have a wonderful reading experience at Digg. Over the next few months, Digg will build and launch a reading experience that takes the best parts of Google Reader — its simplicity, speed, ease of use, and embedded social and sharing functions — and moves them forward with new features and options that help users organize and distill the often vast and overwhelming social network feeds that they wrestle with daily. Digg is actively seeking input as it builds its reader, so head over and let your voice be heard.
Google Reader may be going away. But readers — people like you — are here to stay.