News people: Waking up to the world around you.

It’s always controversial to say that big tech companies make money by controlling the flows to and from users and charging others for access. But that is at least one of the businesses Silicon Valley is in. And it’s definitely the business Google is in, so if you want to understand why they might do something to restrict or try to control the flow of RSS, that’s probably part of the story, at least. (I’m bending over backwards to be conservative here.)

The thing to fear is that Google intends to control the news people can subscribe to, the same way Apple controls what apps you can buy for the iPad. And the way Twitter decides what clients can have access to our tweets.

  • They’ve got a pretty nice interface for it, btw — the magical Google Now. It knows what information you’re likely to want to see, and shows it to you. It’s really good.
    • An example of how good/creepy it is. My friend Jen was coming to visit from SLC. Google Now told me her plane was 24 minutes from arriving at the gate at JFK. I had never told them what flight she was on. I didn’t know what flight she was on. But they did. Probably because she uses Gmail or their calendar, and somehow connected me to that trip (or did they just guess!) and thought I might be impressed if they told me about her flight. I was!
  • But it’s creepy, in two ways. One way most people see (it’s snooping on what you do to figure out what you want to see). The second way: it’s also deciding what you don’t see.
  • Centralizing this decision-making, for now, is the only way that works. But we’re giving something up here.
  • I love that the content of my river is not determined by any tech company. Do I think it will stay that way? It’s possible that it might not. Even though I’m not running any Google software to manage it. (I run the aggregator on a Rackspace server, and the content is served from an Amazon S3 bucket.)

We broke free for a bit there with unrestricted flow from blogs and news orgs via RSS. There are people who would like to put the genie back in the bottle. They’re not going to run press releases saying that. This is one of those cases where the reporters have to investigate to get the news.

News people — if your plan for the future includes free flow of news from journalists to readers, now’s the time to take a look.


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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