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Build It And They Will Shun
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I'm still pretty ticked off about this. Almost 4 years ago now Google killed Google Reader, an RSS aggregation tool you could sort of view as a kind of GMAIL for RSS feeds.

Google said it was due to a steadily declining user base (which I equate, as often is the actual case, with an increasingly sophisticated one) which never made sense to its most astute users who were left scrambling to find a replacement service.

There really wasn't one. Many of the alternatives achieved a kind of functional equivalent only in the strictest sense. They all happily aggregated RSS feeds, yet failed to meet the aesthetic or organizational efficiency of Google Reader.

Feedly was widely ordained the defacto alternative presumably because it looked similar enough to Google Reader's design, to a point.

But at the time, and, understand it may be different today, I found that it was a bit too gaudy and high on the principle that your news feed should, at any cost, look like a series of magazines. It was like the service was ashamed of RSS's down and dirty approach and they tried to clean it up as a first step in the user experience.

What still grinds my gears about Google Reader's shutdown is that it appears to have been nothing more than Google's way of using its size and influence to engineer web behavior away from open APIs (read: profitless dumb pipes).

Broadly speaking Google couldn't stop people from reading news and web updates all in one place if that's what people wanted - the inferior services and RSS client side alternatives would still exist. But it didn't have to participate by providing the best watering hole.

By merely disrupting the RSS-reading population's primary fix with their little product shutdown, a good percentage of people would step away from RSS, never to return. Thus the open web would decay by yet another notch.

Some theories to this effect surfaced around the time of its shutdown.

As a sidenote, I believe the actual best alternative to Google Reader today happens to be, of all places, AOL Reader. Counter to its parent company's roots among the newbies way back when, AOL Reader feels about as close to a serious tool as Google Reader did.

Surfing Versus Darting
WWW openweb passingthought
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I posted an open lament to Reddit that maybe we should concede the death of the WWW to social networks and phone apps. There's only so much digital energy in people day to day and they aren't expending it through a web browser on a computer unless they have to.

What I suggested was the continued maintenance of a "laptop" web by enthusiasts who "got" the point of the web and could continue to develop for it, living with the constraint that their output was no longer part of a (relative) mass media. My WWW site would be designed and posted for other WWW enthusiasts, and that would be fine.

I've realized since that unpopular post (largely downvoted and mocked by the web design audience whose gravy is HTML) that what I really meant should not be spun as a "laptop" web or a "WWW" web, but rather, a web surfers web.

After all, I'm not talking about just the tools of web browsing (e.g., a web browser, HTML) but the habits and techniques engaged in by people who web browse.

Phone apps and closed garden social media sites eliminate the hopping (read: surfing) behavior so characteristic of people using the original web. Then, web authors unabashedly linked to other authors and people followed these links for the sheer enjoyment of it.

To most people the web, now, is a feed and the behavior is more akin to web "darting". People dart out to individual web pages containing stories or still other feeds, based on social prompts by linked social media contacts. After they have finished consuming their content, they dart straight back to their feed.

I could still be very well talking about the preservation of a laptop or PC WWW by synonymous effect, but from now on I'm going to call it more precisely the preservation of the web surfing culture. And I for one am going to concentrate on providing for that culture.

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