Assuming no change of heart on the part of Google (not likely), one month from today Reader will disappear, taking with it the capabilities of many RSS aggregators on all platforms. As I ranted about soon after the announcement in March, this particular hole in the cloud will wipe out a key component in the information management process of many people, some of whom I think don’t even know they’re using Reader and will be very surprised on July 1.
Of course, RSS as a technology will not vanish with the shut down of Reader and sites will not stop publishing feeds of their content, so it’s just a matter of time, and a lot of work, until robust replacement services become available. But that’s not likely to happen in the next month.
So, what are the options in the meantime? Â For my personal needs, I’ll be using Feedly.
They have the advantage of already offering good plugins for the major browsers combined with solid apps for iPhone and iPad (plus Android and Kindle). In a blog post following the Google announcement, the developers claimed that transitioning to their service would be simple as long as users linked to their Reader accounts before the shut down.
The big downside, which will keep me searching for something better,Â is that Feedly is free to the end user. I’ve become very wary of free software and services that have no apparent plan for supporting the company. Eventually, they either disappear (or get bought and disappear) or start throwing ads at me, in which case the advertisers become their customers, not me.
Other negatives are that this is a proprietary service, meaning that other apps probably won’t be able to use the syncing capabilities with a different, maybe improved interface, and it does not yet support linking to some of the other services in my information flow.
For the long run, I’ll be watching the potential Reader replacement being built by the company behind the social news service Digg. In May they also bought Instapaper, another service I depend on and which has some interesting possibility for an intersection with an RSS syncing service.
I’ll also be taking a closer look at Feed Wrangler and Feedbin, neither of which are free (the under $20 annual fee is reasonable if the value is there). Both also allow developers to connect applications to their services, including some I already use.
If you need more alternatives to explore, there’s Newsblur, another paid service ($24 a year) with a free version limited to 64 feeds (about 1/3 of what I have), although a rather ugly interface. Or The Old Reader, which bills itself as “the ultimate social RSS reader” but has no mobile apps yet. Or for the very geeky, Fever, RSS syncing software you install on your own server.
I’m sure there are more alternatives in the works, likely with a few interesting innovations. But whatever you decide to do for your RSS aggregation needs, one thing that all Reader users should do right now is export their data from Google while you still can. They make it very easy, starting on this page.