How Google Helped Kill the Indie Web and How It Can Bring It Back
My hope is that someone that works inside Google reads this post and shares it with their co-workers. Maybe this post can get a conversation going about where the web is heading next.
In 2013, Google made a mistake. It shut down Google Reader, which was an RSS Reader that was easy enough for anyone to use. Those of us sophisticated users of RSS were told to go elsewhere. Many of us went to Feedly. It felt like everyone else went to Facebook and Twitter.
Google’s killing off Reader was a gift to the other tech giants. Instead of getting new content by subscribing to RSS Feeds of sites discovered in Google Search, people went to social media sites. Then Google tried and failed with their own attempt to create a social media platform (Google Plus).
The problems with social media sites are clear today. Privacy, security, filtering, and censoring. We need to bring excitement and support back for the independent web. Google is the one entity that I think could make it happen and they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Here is my plan for Google.
#1 Get Back into the RSS Business
That could mean an acquisition of Feedly or bringing back Google Reader. It also means educating both the users and creators on the web what RSS is and how to use it.
My subscriptions should be as easy to access as GMail or Google Drive. That might include easier integration with Chrome and Chrome mobile.
It could even mean reading my RSS Feed directly inside GMail. That’d shake things up. An anonymous way to subscribe to website updates would be AWESOME!
#2 Code a New Blogging Platform
Blogger (Blogspot) is now 20-year old software. I used it back in 2000 but abandoned it for WordPress starting around 2008. Every now and then I help friends with their blog and I’m still amazed how crappy Blogger is given the resources and minds at Google.
My solution is to start again. A brand new blogging system. WordPress is a bloated mess, but it is still the best option for most bloggers.
A new Blogging CMS for the modern web. It should hide all complexities that those of us with years (or decades) in the web game know we need to do to get things running.
- RSS (of course)
- Generate static site (you’d be shocked how many bots try and hack my coffee site daily)
- Newsletter integration
- Handles backups
- Have it work directly with Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Feedburner
Blogger was an acquisition built in the dial-up days. Start fresh and build something great. Then open source it and get the major web hosts to support it. One of the issues with Blogger is that Google is the only host. Back in the early days that wasn’t true.
Code it in Go if you like.
#3 Share the Vision
The vision would be that Google supports the open independent web. Google will be there for the millions of users that have left and that continue to leave social media. Connecting creators with users without filters or censoring.
My guess is that this post will go nowhere, as I only get about 200–300 unique visitors a day**. However, I do want to share a story about the old days on the indie web.
On September 14, 2002, I discovered an error in the code of Blogger inside the View Source. This was before Google acquired the company. I sent in an email and I got an actual response that Saturday.
The next day, I got a shout out for one of my posts.
That blog post was written by Evan Williams. Founder of Blogger. Co-founder of Twitter and now the founder of the Medium.com. That was the old-school independent web. No Facebook or Twitter verified account needed.
* * My guess is a high percent of my readers use an ad-blocker or similar program. I use one. Those readers are not counted in Google Analytics. So that 200–300 number is low, but I don’t know how low.