Yesterday was a big day for Twitter. First, it handled the huge traffic burst for the announcement of Pope Francis. But that was only the warmup. The big test came yesterday evening when word came out that Google (GOOG) will shutter Google Reader in July. My Twitter feed quickly lit up with pleadings to Google to keep it alive, and to developers to quickly build a replacement.
Of course, I follow a lot of journalists and bloggers, and RSS feeds have long been their lifeblood. Google Reader for them fills the role that newswires once played. But most people have no idea what RSS is or what it does.
Perhaps MG Siegler of the CrunchFund said it best:
Personally, I rely a lot less on RSS than I did four or five years ago. Then, tools like Google Reader and NetVibes were a critical part of my morning routine, right after checking my email. Today, they’ve largely been replaced in my workflow by Twitter and Flipboard. If there’s something important for me to know, chances are it will show up in my Twitter stream. And Flipboard is perfect for keeping up to date on things I don’t follow as closely, leveraging Twitter lists and a handful of RSS feeds.
For those concerned about replacing Reader, there are a bunch of options. Lifehacker was quick to publish a list of alternative RSS readers.
For non-blogger/journos, you might find Flipboard provides a more compelling interface for keeping up. It’s not a workflow tool in the way that Reader is, but for simply reading, it’s great.
The bigger challenge may come down the road if Google shutters its Feedburner service. Feedburner, founded by current Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and later sold to Google, is the tool most blogs and news services use to push out their RSS feeds for syndication. There have been rumblings for quite a while that Feedburner may soon be shut down. That would set off more of a scramble for a scalable solution to push RSS. But someone will fill the void.
A good candidate to fill both the Reader and syndication gaps could be LinkedIn (LNKD). The company is rumored to be acquiring mobile news reader Pulse News for between $50 - $100 million. That’s just the latest step in LinkedIn’s move to become more of a content company. The recently launched Influencers Program, added to the LinkedIn Today feed has made its news page much more competitive. And while it could stand improvements, the LinkedIn Endorsements feature helps tag people to skills and interests. Combining the business-focused LinkedIn social graph with a flow of news content could enable a more true interest graph. As GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram notes “this kind of “interest graph” targeting is the holy grail for both content companies and social networks.”.
Beyond the news reader side, LinkedIn could immediately gain traction with publishers by launching a Feedburner alternative. An aqui-hire of Feedblitz, Feedity or even IFTTT could position them to pick up the bulk of the RSS syndication market when Google exits.