wasting bandwidth since 1999

Replacing Reader

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.

Google reader icon scalable by lopagof

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?  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, 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.


  1. Dave

    I settled on theoldreader.com , even though that means not having a mobile app for now. For me, it felt the closest to the existing Google Reader interface in the important ways: easily scannable, lots of information on screen without unnecessary bling, etc.

    Still can’t believe Google is shutting down Reader with just a couple months notice without a solid replacement. I really, really think there’s more to this story. Maybe they’ve started to get a lot of government requests for what people are reading, and they are so philosophically opposed to that that they decided to shut it down? Then again, it’s not like many other high quality readers sprung up in its place, so maybe it’s just more expensive to run than it looks like. I’m shocked that nobody made a nearly exact copy of the Google Reader interface and slapped a $15/year pricetag on it; it seems like that would be like printing money right now.

  2. Ryan Collins

    I’m currently using an install of Tiny Tiny RSS. There is a plug in to use the same keys as Google Reader. I’m in complete control of my RSS reading now. There is a plugin to support the Fever API, which allows me to use Reeder on my iPhone and Sunstroke on my iPad (Reeder for iPad doesn’t support Fever yet). So I can access it mobile or on the desktop.

    Feedly announced today partnerships with several RSS reader companies to use the Feedly API. I’m waiting for my favorite iOS reader, Newsify, to support it and then decide whether to stay with TTRSS or switch.

  3. tim

    I’m not sure Google is all that concerned about user privacy. I think they’re shutting down Reader because they couldn’t figure out a way to integrate it with Google+ and make money from it. They probably realized lots of people would be upset if they tried to insert ads into the feeds.

    As to paid copies that duplicate Reader, there are actually several that come close, including Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, and Newsblur. I’m hoping that some of the replacements will incorporate a little innovation and start moving RSS beyond Reader, which actually lost features over the past couple of years.

    • Ryan Collins

      That’s what puzzles me, how could they not be making money with Reader? Here is a tool used by people that are more likely to have higher skills with technology and in their respective fields that are handing Google what sites and articles are of high quality. Google should have been using Reader to enhance their search results, but I’m getting the impression that Reader was it’s own separate entity.

      I have a feeling Feedly is opening up their RSS API to other companies because Feedly realizes how important this information is. It is really shocking that Google is shutting it down.

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