There were rumblings earlier this week that Alphabet executives mused about killing GCP. I think they probably won’t do it [1]. But as a side effect this has provoked yet another round of everyone pouring one out for the most beloved Google ex-feature ever, Google Reader.

I miss the RSS world of the early 2000’s as much as anyone. I miss it almost as much as I miss McCarren Pool having no water in it and new Spoon albums sounding fresh. This is why I feel compelled to point out that those mourning Google Reader are forgetting that it was actually responsible for ruining the whole thing.

Computer, engage shitpost. Attack pattern “digging up graves.”

It went like this: Google Reader killed RSS, and then like a decade later Google killed Google Reader. You’re having a funeral for the tame old fox that was mysteriously living in your henhouse.

A Bull Moose Stomping around the Primordial Tidepool

The existence of Google Reader wiped out a generation of attempts at building hosted, social feed readers. I was working on one. We had maybe a thousand users, so I’m not trying to overestimate the cardinality of the set of alternate universes in which ours won. But the survival of any of them as independent actors became untenable once Google Reader came out.

Hosted feed aggregation was a relatively expensive product to attempt at the time. There were no clouds yet, and bandwidth pricing on shared hosts was oppressive to those of us just getting by on bootstrapped budgets. Everyone subscribed to less than a hundred feeds, but it was fat-tailed and everyone chose a different set of less than a hundred feeds. Your servers had to download a lot of stuff, and they had to do it as often as you could afford.


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