A Cautiously Optimistic Slow Clap for Digg’s Google Reader Replacement

What I need now is a web-based RSS reader from a company that's big enough to not fold anytime soon and popular enough to get included with third-party services.

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I was away on vacation when Google pulled the plug on Google Reader, which I suppose is a good time for Google to kill something I use every day.

I wouldn’t say I’m irate about it, but it certainly might complicate things for me. Google’s official stance is, “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.” There’s some scuttlebutt that the move has to do with privacy concerns and compliance issues, as well.

I also suspect that the move to shut down Reader may have something to do with the fact that it was great at acting as a central repository for your RSS feeds — a repository you could link to several other services without actually going to Google’s site to use. At a very basic level, that means Google can’t make much money off of Google Reader. At least, not enough to overcome “usage decline” or privacy issues.

I very rarely actually visited the Google Reader page, but I definitely use Feedly and Flipboard — two services that pull in my Google Reader RSS feeds — on a daily basis. I didn’t use any of Reader’s social functions or explore the Trends section. I basically used it as a central place to store all my feeds and a way to star articles (using Feedly or Flipboard) I want to read later.

So what I need now is a web-based RSS reader from a company that’s big enough to not fold anytime soon and popular enough to get included with third-party services. And I need the reader to act like Google Reader in the sense that I can store all my RSS feeds there, star individual articles and connect it to services like Feedly and Flipboard.

Digg might be building what I need. In a recent blog post, the team outlined its plans for a Google Reader replacement, saying that its RSS reader will be built based on feedback from “devoted users of Google Reader and other reading applications.”

Here’s more:

After combing through all 800 comments, here are 4 points that seemed to recur, and loudly:

  1. Keep it simple, stupid
  2. Make it fast (like, really fast)
  3. Synchronize across devices
  4. Make it easy to import from existing Google Reader accounts

Google did a lot of things right with its Reader, but based on what we’re hearing from users, there is room for meaningful improvement. We want to build a product that’s clean and flexible, that bends easily and intuitively to the needs of different users. We want to experiment with and add value to the sources of information that are increasingly important, but difficult to surface and organize in most reader applications — like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, or Hacker News. We likely won’t get everything we want into v1, but we believe it’s worth exploring.

I’m on board with those four points; I just hope that point #3 means synching across third-party services as well. I don’t need a Digg RSS reader app that I use on phones, tablets and desktop web browsers. I need a universal RSS repository from a company with enough clout to get included as an option with existing apps like Feedly and Flipboard. Google Reader did that. I’m hoping Digg’s reader does that as well.

What’s Next [Digg Blog]

MORE: Three Lessons from the Death of Google Reader