31 July 2013

The Old Reader behind the scenes: “Desperate times call for desperate measures”

We would really like to switch the difficulty level back to “normal”. Not to be dreaded of a vacation. Do something else besides The Old Reader. Stop neglecting ourselves. Think of other projects. Get less distant from families and loved ones. The last part it’s the worst: when you are with your family, you can’t fall out of dialogues, nodding, smiling and responding something irrelevant while thinking of refactoring the backend, checking Graphite dashboard, glancing onto a Skype chat and replying on Twitter. You really need to be there, you need to be completely involved. We want to have this experience again.

That’s why The Old Reader has to change. We have closed user registration, and we plan to shut the public site down in two weeks. We started working on this project for ourselves and our friends, and we use The Old Reader on a daily basis, so we will launch a separate private site that will keep running. It will have faster refresh rate, more posts per feed, and properly working full-text search — we are sure that we can provide all this at a smaller scale without that much drama, just like we were doing before March.

Elena Bulygina & Dmitry Krasnoukhov

Even though has been officially dead for a month now, the drama caused by its demise continues. The Old Reader, one of the earliest alternatives, will (maybe) close down for the public in the coming weeks. I can certainly understand the two developers feeling completely overwhelmed and wanting some proper work-life-balance. I’m somewhat curious if anybody will take up their offer for an acquisition; to me it seems unlikely: the bigger tech companies have no interest in RSS anymore, the competitors already have their own products in place, so there is no reason to keep two RSS readers running, competing for resources and users.

On the other hand… I can’t help feel this announcement should have been made before the Reader shutdown. This way there will be a lot of disappointed users who will have to go thought the whole process of replacing their RSS reader again, just a month after migrating from Google Reader. At some point many will decide this isn’t worth the effort and just quit RSS completely, hurting the market as a whole. Unfortunately I expect this scenario to repeat itself with many of the copy-cats that popped-up in the last couple of months. I think a year from now only the bigger free players and a couple of niche paid services will be left standing.

They mention 420 000 users in the blog post, but I have to wonder how many of them were actively using the site. I briefly tested it, found it lacking, never returned since.

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