Google Reader death, or how the cloud model can fail you

If you’re a Google Reader user, you probably read in one of your subscriptions that Google is pulling the plug on Google Reader. It is yet another demonstration of why putting data in the cloud isn’t so much of a nice idea: the service you rely on may well disappear some day, with all the data it contains.

Sure Google, in its extreme goodness, allows you to “take out” the Google Reader data. Or does it? These are what you’ll get from Google Takeout for Reader:

  • followers.json, following.json: both files contain similar data, that I suspect correspond to Buzz subscriptions (yet another dead service). Each friends item contains some information about your “friend”, and a stream identifier for their activity (I guess), as well as a few websites urls. For instance Tim Bray’s stream is “user/05198174665841271019/state/“. What the hell do I do with that? Fortunately, he has websites, but not all my “friends” have. Thankfully, I haven’t really been using this feature, so there’s almost nothing in these files.
  • liked.json, starred.json, shared.json, shared-by-followers.json: all have the same structure, and contain items you liked, starred, shared, or that the people you follow shared (yeah, that file is badly named). Each item contains an url (or so I hope), and the corresponding content (yay). shared-by-followers.json however doesn’t contain more than the items the people you follow actively shared: it doesn’t contain their feeds (and I’m pretty sure I read more from Tim Bray than the two links he shared)
  • subscriptions.xml: Essentially, a list of RSS feed urls, with no content ; nothing from Tim Bray here, but now that I think about it, I think I was only following his Buzz feed, so that went away with Buzz without me noticing.

Interestingly, while looking into shared-by-followers.json, I found urls that would correspond to friend streams. For instance, Tim Bray’s is But it’s useless: all it displays is “permission denied”.

As for subscriptions, one of the strengths of Google Reader is that it allowed to search though past items, which means a big part of the interesting data is the archived items. But that’s not part of the “take out”. Sure, you have the feed urls, but most RSS feeds contain a limited amount of items, not the entire history of items for the given feed. So, history is more or less lost. Except if I star, like or share all items in all my subscriptions and “take out” again.

So much goodness.

It could have been worse, though.

2013-03-14 08:35:45+0900

p.d.o, p.m.o

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14 Responses to “Google Reader death, or how the cloud model can fail you”

  1. Octoploid Says:

    Well, you’re lucky. All I get is an gzipped html file with a long error message!

  2. phile Says:

    One click for me :)

  3. Octoploid Says:

    The yandex thing looks good to me. Thanks for the pointer! I’ve deleted my google account.

  4. adam Says:

    You loose all your tags too, that is horrible!

  5. DB Cooper Says:

    So, if one was to run one’s own web-app replacement for Google Reader (on AWS for example), what solution should one use?

  6. Reece Dunn Says:

    If you have a HTML file listing errors, the files listed in it have hyperlinks. Clicking on the hyperlink will cause it to fetch the file, which works for me.

    The important file is the subscriptions.xml file. It is an OPML file, so make sure the service/program you move to supports importing feeds from files in that format.

  7. Jan Says:

    @adam Transitioning to feedly I did not loose my tags.

    @DB Cooper

  8. Google Reader death, or how the cloud model can fail you | Ewald Lieuwes Says:

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  9. Luke Faraone Says:

    Hm, that link ( works for me…

  10. adam Says:


    How do they export them? I don’t have either of these: iPhone/iPad, Android, Kindle, so I can’t really confirm it works but I doubt it.

  11. adam Says:

    I did find out about a way to export:

    But it does not go all the way. I have long running, high volume tag which ends on 2009-11-14 instead of 2007-02-10.

    It seems I will lose quite a bit of tagged items.

  12. Redtexture Says:

    CloudPull, a creation of John Brayton, may satisfy some people’s desires to obtain a local copy of starred Google Reader items, and all tags, and all archived pages associated with subscribed Google Reader feeds.

    He first released CloudPull in January 2011, focused only on serving as a mechanism for local storage of Google Docs. In the last coupld of months, in response to the announced end of service of Google Reader, he has expanded the Reader-related download capabilities.

    It is an OSX / Mac only application. See for details.

  13. Raymond Says:

    Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this website before but after going through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  14. Google Reader death, or how the cloud model can fail you | The Three-Finger Salute Says:

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