Oh No…Not Again: Another RSS Reader Bites the Dust

Oh for the love of all that’s good and holy, I can’t go through this again.

digg reader shutdown

Yep, Digg Reader is shutting down, effective in just a couple weeks. I’ve been using that as my primary RSS aggregator pretty much since it was made available in the wake of Google’s decision to suddenly shut down *its* RSS tool, Google Reader, about which I’ve had some definite thoughts over the years. At the time, Digg didn’t have an RSS reader and was just sort of feeling its own identity under new owners Betaworks, who was turning it into a curated selection of interesting news. It sped up deployment so that Google Reader users could get their feeds imported and not miss a beat.

It wasn’t the only option at the time. Feedly also made a big push for users and for a while I used both, keeping my “personal” reading on Digg and using Feedly for client monitoring. Eventually, I moved everything to Digg Reader for a variety of reasons, including its integration with Pocket and that unlike Feedly it wasn’t always trying to upsell me to a paid subscription plan. It was a good RSS reader, doing everything I needed it to do.

digg reader logo

There used to be a handful of RSS readers available to choose from before Google Reader came on the scene and dominated the market to the point where many of them folded. That left the ecosystem pretty barren when it shut down in 2013. Now, with Digg Reader going out of business, it’s just a handful that survive.

Maybe this will be a chance for me to try out the WordPress Reader once again, though I still have some issues with that. Basically, there are no great options available for RSS junkies like me who cling to the old ways.

RSS has never been a big moneymaker because…well…there’s almost no way to make money at it. I’m the first to admit they’re run basically as public service options by the parent companies. That’s why I understand if an entity like Betaworks, which isn’t huge, couldn’t continue to devote resources to it but which is also what made Google’s abandonment so galling because it probably spends more on campus bike maintenance every three months than it would have to keep Reader going for five years. Meanwhile, Google has experimented with a number of products that are almost sorta RSS but aren’t based on an open standard.

The shut down couldn’t come at a worse time, either. We keep debating the role of social networks in the news world and bemoaning how the various news feeds don’t serve the public in a healthy and effective way. Brands complain that their Facebook reach has been suppressed by countless algorithm changes while people see the same garbage “news” because their idiot cousin keeps liking the dumbest stuff.

You never have to worry about “fake news” entering your RSS timeline, though, because you’re the only one in charge of its inputs. There’s no recommendation algorithm or anything else, it’s just the feeds and sources you subscribed to, and without the constant “ping” alert of email newsletters. All those updates are just sitting there waiting for you for whenever you’re ready to go through them. If we could have educated people on the power of RSS to cut through the garbage and allow them to reclaim their reading power, we could have struck a serious blow against Facebook in particular, which would have suddenly seemed (as it always has to me) to be a shallow, vacuous wasteland of nothingness.

I’ll have to see what my next step with my RSS feeds is. I’ve gone through a number of readers over the years, so this transition isn’t new. It’s just disappointing to see that once again an open web standard that truly democratized reading the internet is being relegated to the dustbin.