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A cartoon depiction of the author, wearing a hoodie and smiling

RIP Google Reader Sharing

So, uh.

It may sound weird to those of you who weren’t a part of it, but the social network I participated in the most for the past 4 years was Google Reader, which added a way to share items in December 2007 to a group of people who were “following” you. The ability to comment on threads was added and over the course of combining a few friend groups (friends from the ZZT and Megazeux communities, friends from the Progressive Boink forums, and friends from my first post-college job, along with a few people from other parts of my life) it blossomed into the website where I spend all my time.

At one point I made it up to 300 subscriptions, panicked, and purged down to 100. As of this writing I’m back up to over 400 subscriptions, having settled into a pretty good routine of how to prioritize what to actually read, what to skim, and what to mark as read unless bored. I’ve stayed at a pretty constant rate of sharing ~5 items per day throughout that whole process, but I’ve seen friends turn into GIF fiends, ragecomic curators, and vintage photograph appreciators, and I know who to turn to for information about politics, sociology, and programming language specifics. The 90 people I follow on Google Reader, put together, share about 200 items a day as of this writing.

I totally get why Google is doing this. It makes sense for one team to be working on “sharing content with friends”. With Google+ integration, you’ll be able to share content “to circles”, and there can be comment threads with participation from anyone in those circles. It’s basically the same thing in that respect! The thing is, I’ve been fretting for a while over the fact that I have a lot of friends who weren’t interested in using Google Reader to view my shared items. By sharing to Google+, I’m locking myself into the same situation— only people who follow me on Google+ (or bookmark and visit my public profile, I guess, if I chose to make my shared items totally public) can see my stuff. I know a number of people who have no interest in joining Google+ for a variety of reasons, and I can’t say I blame them. I don’t keep up with what people are putting on there very well right now.

Tumblr has a rich community built around people following each other on the Dashboard. It seems popular, but to be honest, I’m not a big fan of it. I follow everyone that I follow on Tumblr in Google Reader because I like getting everything I read in that one place. But if I publish things to Tumblr, anyone who likes Tumblr and likes the dashboard can use that and anyone else can subscribe to the RSS feed that Tumblr publishes for my blog and they can read it in Google Reader or a desktop RSS feed reader or any number of other places. It’s not perfect, but I have some level of exhaustion when it comes to the number of different sites I have to go to on a daily basis just to “keep up”.

I get why Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ aren’t trying to solve that problem— they’re counting on you to collapse with exhaustion and just pick their stream over anyone else’s. But I’m going to cling to something like Tumblr, which at the very least provides a functional RSS feed, before I’m forced to move on to the new Internet, a huge field full of closed silos, forever.