Here’s something funny: Many people complain about Google shutting down Google Reader, and frankly I also happen to use it myself. True enough, I tend to use it less and less with social networks but sometimes I do use news reader. The real issue that nobody really picked up is not Google doing something evil (Google Reader is not even a paid service), it’s that it seems we are forgetting the importance of the RSS feed. Yes RSS is a very useful technology and following blogs or news site is only a tiny fraction of what it can do.
In a similar fashion the same people who are complaining about the demise of Google Reader do not seem to understand what RSS is about, and do not seem to realize that they can export their feeds very easily to other online news reader such as NetVibes and NewsBlur. And that’s just for the online services. There are actual news reader servers as well one can install for its personal use or for an organization. Now the way the feeds can be exported out from Google Reader and imported to any of these services is simple: you can use a simple xml file or an OPML file. Yes, Google Reader lets you export an OPML file. And what’s OPML? It’s an open standard. It’s been developed aside other open standards for the web, such as the microformats, OpenID, RDF, XMPP, hcards and RSS, so you’re in good company. Ultimately these specifications revolve around the very interesting notion of data portability and everyone should have a look at it. There you have, one more case to prove their importance has just appeared in front of everyone. But instead of that we’re witnessing a headless chicken dance. If you ask me, I have exported all of my feeds regularly over the years in an OPML file, and I don’t feel the slightest panic creeping my spine. I’ll use Open Standards.