In March, Google announced that it will shut down Google Reader in July 2013 as a result of declining use. The online frenzy surrounding the demise of Google’s RSS app speaks volumes about the vacuum it leaves behind in a previously stifled market. The wildly popular content aggregator will be sticking around for a couple more months, but pundits are already tossing around ideas about which lucky app will take its place. That’s really what discussions about the future of RSS technology boil down to. There’s no question that RSS will survive. What that means is that with just enough luck and knowledge, some other company will succeed at landing its RSS product in the spotlight.
So far, Google is giving users the option of exporting their subscriptions list, which can then be transferred to a compatible program without fuss. For users, that means all important data can easily be moved to the next RSS app.
To examine the future of RSS, you need to revisit the history of RSS readers. Google Reader was the first RSS app to capture consumers’ interest in 2005, but it wasn’t the first to enter the scene. This mattered very little, though, as it quickly became a favorite among users and developers thanks to its stability, reliability and superb interface. Also, it was free and backed by the Google name. Soon enough, Google Reader was dominating the market, and those initial pioneers in RSS-sync services vanished before they could even get started. Come July, there will be a huge Google-sized hole in the marketplace, leaving developers scrambling to fill it.
The major fear for many lamenters is that the recent development could signal the end of RSS readers altogether. Most experts find these fears to be unfounded. While RSS use may have declined in recent years because of social media, RSS followers still number in the millions, a big enough market to justify some heated competition. What’s more, RSS desktop clients and mobile apps with independent subscription capabilities already exist. The real concern is the viability of free RSS apps. In the bid for developers to capitalize on Google’s exit, it’s quite possible the market will be inundated with paid apps and programs, detracting from one of Google’s most attractive qualities.
The coming months are an exciting time for developers, which have the entire RSS market at their disposal. Digg, the once-popular social-news website, has publicly stated its intention to create an RSS system, borrowing heavily from Google’s. Feedly, another RSS reader, highlighted its ability to smoothly transition from Google Reader, which has resulted in 3 million users and counting.
Now that Google’s RSS app will soon be defunct, the RSS market resembles a land of opportunity. As developers roll out the competition, it will be exciting to observe how they shape the future of RSS.