Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Google Reader gone, low-vision alternatives still needed

Google Reader home page set up for low vision reader Thomas Kraemer in Microsoft Internet Explorer window

PHOTO: screen shot of Google Reader set up for a low vision reader to read the full text RSS feed from his local city newspaper. The newspaper's Web site is nearly impossible to read for a low vision person compared to the simple reformatted text that Google Reader optionally provides. The full text RSS feed consumes very few bytes and costs the newspaper almost nothing to provide compared the many megabytes that is downloaded just accessing the main newspaper Web site home page and Google Reader allowed the user to easily click on the headline to access the main site for photos and other ancillary information. See previous post Customer feedback on Google Reader shutdown - is Blogger next? (3/16/13)

"Google Reader has been discontinued. We want to thank all our loyal fans. We understand you may not agree with this decision, but we hope you'll come to love these alternatives as much as you loved Reader." quoted from page accessed July 2, 2013.

A blog post by Urs Holzle, SVP Technical Infrastructure and Google Fellow, "A second spring of cleaning," posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013 said, "We're living in a new kind of computing environment. Everyone has a device, sometimes multiple devices. It's been a long time since we have had this rate of change -- it probably hasn't happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago. To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus -- otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact. So today we're announcing some more closures, bringing the total to 70 features or services closed since our spring cleaning began in 2011 . . ."

Google linked to the following page, which amazingly appears to be from a third party: "Google Reader alternatives for Windows" accessed Jul 2, 103.

Google also directed me to Digg Google reader alternative - Digg reader Google Search and "Digg Reader is Live," accessed July 2, 2013

Given the limitations of my low vision blindness, I have been unable to access and use a new Google Reader alternative because nearly every site I've gone to and very reader people have shown me override the accessibility features built-in most modern internet browsers. Apparently, accessibility is being thrown under the bus to provide a sexier experience for sighted users.

In the meantime, I have set up my own custom coded RSS reader, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel and so my reader is unfinished and requires much manual work, which the old Google Reader did for me automatically in the cloud.

I would love to know the real reason Google Reader was canned. Yes, I am sure the concept of RSS feeds is not well understood and probably the usage is limited to a few dedicated users as Google claims. However, I am suspicious that content creators and intellectual property copyright owners have pressured Google to eliminate the service because it bypasses much of their monetization. Google could have easily monetized Google Reader by providing a sidebar with ads relevant to what I was reading - they could even share the profits with the RSS feed content creators.

Content creators who think they will get more money and drive more traffic to their site by blocking full text RSS feeds are wrong in my opinion. In my experience using Google Reader, I more frequently accessed original Web sites to see ancillary information that was mentioned in RSS feeds, which in turn generated more traffic and revenue for the site. This happened more frequently only because I was able to skim read more text. The full text RSS feed costs sites almost nothing to provide because full text RSS feeds use very little computer network resources compared to the many megabytes commonly transferred by web sites' main pages. Yes, I am sure many webmasters have seen their feed abused by robots, etc., but these problems are better solved other ways than by making it hard to read your site.

In any case, I see an emerging opportunity for a new business that would provide better accessibility to the internet as Web sites become less and less accessible. My feedback to the Google founders, also as a Google stock holder and a champion of computer accessibility, is Google should fund a charitable group to implement better accessibility for people with disabilities. They probably could get a tax write off and also great publicity for doing this when nobody else seems to be interested.