Farewell, Bloglines, It’s Been Swell

Bloglines, the venerable RSS reader that I — and tens of thousands of others — have used since 2005 is shutting down on October 1, 2010. Bloglines is making it easy to continue your feedreading habit elsewhere, replacing their front page with the 3 simple steps to export your folders and subscriptions in OPML format:

Exporting Bloglines subscriptions into OPML (click for larger version)

The inevitability of this, in retrospect, seems enormous, and I’m surprised my fondness for Bloglines’ simplicity has made me put up with its quirky behavior. (Quirky, of course, means almost constant brief outages on their perpetual beta version.) Bloglines’ move into selling advertisements on its front page (see Bloglines Succumbs to Advertising from September 2008) was obviously not enough to bring in the revenue needed to keep the service. When your only serious competitor is Google, I suspect almost nothing can save you.
In the blog post announcing the shut down, the trend behind the news is made clear:

The real-time information RSS was so astute at delivering (primarily, blog feeds) is now gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience. As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year, being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact. The writing is on the wall.

I made a similar point about the phase change in RSS from being a commodity in itself to being a transport mechanism in September 2009. Just as soundbite reporting in television and radio news changed that medium, so has ‘textbite’ exchange of information on the Internet. The overwhelming force of the conversation in Twitter and Facebook — where the granularity of information exchange is much smaller and seems to permeate the Internet with greater fluidity — has changed the game.
I’m not giving up on my RSS feeds (from blogs, news services, and other sources), but I’m switching to the only other game in town: Google Reader.

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