Google Reader Alternatives? Again?

Wasn’t I asking for alternatives to Google Reader just over a year ago?

Well, I explored some of the alternatives at that time, but ended up just lumping it with Google’s reduced features and annoying UI “improvements,” the worst of which they did end up fixing eventually.  It looks like those that took the opportunity to jump ship then were the lucky ones.

So today Google announced that Google Reader is being “powered down” as of July 1, 2013.  To quote from the official blog:

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

Welcome to the better user experience, which is none at all.  I suppose it is a lesson in getting what you paid for yet again.

Anyway, some of the alternatives from last year:

Netvibes

NewsBlur – Which is having service problems right now… such timing!

Bloglines

Feedly – Which seemed to be anticipating this.

The Old Reader – New! Trying to be what Google Reader once was.

Tiny Tiny RSS – New! Attempting to be light weight and portable.

Like Hack – New! Billed as a “social media” reader.

Any others to add to the list?

There are lots of stand alone readers, but I want one online so I can check feeds from a browser from where ever.

What will you be using?

And what will Google shut down next?

36 responses to “Google Reader Alternatives? Again?

  1. “Welcome to the better user experience, which is none at all. I suppose it is a lesson in getting what you paid for yet again.” – This is becoming pretty standard for Google.

    I’ve been a Gmail user forever (since the early beta phases, so aeons in Internet years) and I’m actually very fond of Gmail, if only for personal mail, but it’s about the only Google thing I’m liking these days. As for improvements… I know we’re all resistant to change, but most of the Google improvements in the last few years have been poo. They were poo when they were released and they’re still poo now.

    And don’t get me started on G+. There’s something about the aesthetic of that service that’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

  2. I was distraught when it popped and told me they were discontinuing it. I haven’t found another online service that does it nearly as well. After a 30 second glance, Feedly looks the most promising out of those.

  3. I suspect Feedburner will fall by the wayside soon as well.

    And the real sad irony is that if I click on the RSS feed icon on my site while I am logged into Google, it asks if I want to add the feed to Google Reader, closing July 1st, or my Google home page, which is iGoogle, which is closing November 1st.

  4. Wilhelm you read my mind. I am a frequent daily user of RSS newsfeeds and Google Reader is my number one go to location in my browser. It is still the best way to manage all of my game, hobby, and EVE related newsfeeds.

    Choices that I can see at this time would be Feedly (browser and iOS based), Feedler Pro on my iPad (which will need an alternative syncing source as it relies on Google Reader), FeedDemon (http://www.feeddemon.com/) for Windows, and Reeder for Mac OS X.

    As you can probably guess the big issue will be using a cross-platform RSS reader that syncs all my feeds. Without a central API it will be a huge mess.

    Damn you Google. How long before they shutdown GMail?

  5. I jumped ship from Bloglines to Google Reader in 2006-7 due to their inability to track RSS feeds (or maybe their parser could only deal with perfect RSS of a specific version and back then the format wasn’t as universally upheld as today with lots of hand-written RSS generators – things in my feed would stop updating for no reason but the RSS feeds via Safari/FireFox was parsing just fine with new items so I left for greener pastures; if I eventually noticed the loss, of course). Looking at their rebranding as Local with classic sub-site due to public outcry (even if today MerchantCircle seem to say they never planned to completely remove the Reader service) I don’t expect Bloglines really want me back and last time I checked their interface looked a lot like the 2007-8 era rework, which was not ideal at the time and has not aged well.

    Feedly seems to be the best I’ve seen so far (although it is rather app focussed, even if the apps are wrappers on their HTML5 pages which does not mesh well with my desire for everywhere-access on all devices that can deal with html) and their need to move from an underlying Google Reader back-end to a version of their own seems to put them in the same boat as those of us trying to escape. They’ve got social links for sharing articles as you browse (no more using G+ as an archive of pithy comments next to links to articles I was reading so that’s one social network I can leave) and hopefully can do a decent job of just giving me the feeds lists so I can scan through the web and get to my content with the least time wasted.

    The shocking thing about the Reader news is how many people have said they don’t really use RSS. I just don’t really comprehend how someone is a heavy internet user who doesn’t demand ‘push internet’. Surely it isn’t viable to visit sites, check the index for new content, and repeat for every site you want to know about new content from (many of which will not have new content). Bookmarks and manual searching seems like it would only work as a viable solution for very light internet use. RSS: it tells you when there is new stuff you might like to read.

  6. @Facepalm – Might I just say “Screw CNet?” Google Currents? Yeah, I won’t be getting on that bus. And while I love FlipBoard, you use it to read services like Google Reader. I am not sure you can just bring in RSS feeds.

    @Shivoa – Indeed… life without RSS? I get irate when companies I follow don’t have feeds. I don’t want to have to follow their spammy Twitter account.

  7. @Shivoa (and Wilhelm) – The rant interests me, because you’ve pretty much described my browsing habits. Maybe I just haven’t found the right RSS reader (Google reader definitely wasn’t it) for the 300+ blogs and news sites I read semi-regularly, but so far I’ve found every reader more more annoying than just using bookmarks.

    I think it’s because RSS readers insist on showing me the latest stuff, which isn’t necessarily the stuff I’m interested in right now.

  8. @Aufero
    “I think it’s because RSS readers insist on showing me the latest stuff, which isn’t necessarily the stuff I’m interested in right now.”

    I do not understand this comment.

    RSS feeds are designed to show you feeds that you *want* to follow. What were you expecting? It’s a more structured and focused way of following news rather than jumping to a bunch of webpages.

  9. @Aufero – So are you using some RSS-ified form of bookmarks (Live Bookmarks is the terminology I remember but I’m not sure of the modern name or if they even still support that system introduced around 2004) or do you just start opening tabs and looking for content in the indexes until you’ve combed through the list or run out of time? How do you ensure you’re not neglecting something? I have to assume you pick sites you’d like to read and then open them whenever bored and check for content from which you pick at that moment. I have a feeling this is the disconnect.

    There are sites I sometimes browse to kill time and sites I occasionally visit via bookmarks. But almost all of my time on the web (outside of webapps and technical searches) is spent with my feeds. This is a list of the sites I am interested enough in the content of to want to get an update whenever there is something new to read. The content is listed and I can reject, open, pin for later more detailed inspection, or email to my Kindle (replace with instapaper etc or bookmarking) if I want to read but won’t have time for something more than a few paras long. It isn’t that they show the latest stuff (all my lists sort from oldest to newest), only the latest stuff is things I have not already categories in some way and so wiped from the list. It’s email management, only with the rest of the web.

    So it is for quite high web activity, and obviously you only want feeds from sites with a decent worthwhile percentage or with a low output (depending in your tolerance for filtering lists of articles), but it does mean I never scan over the same headline twice, load up a website which has nothing new that interests me, and never miss something posted to the sites I like to stay on top of (unless I failed to take an interest from the title or abstract scan). Reader seems to think (as it does trend tracking graphs) that between 100 and 200 items arrive per day with my selection of feeds but as I’m batching it a few times a day then I can easily process that quickly and I have in recent years cut back on my heavy news feeds so it will have been quite a lot higher in previous times.

    It is possibly my very poor memory that makes me feed a Reader is essential. Not only can I be reasonably sure I have at least had the option of reading everything offered by these various sites I subscribe to but also that I am not forgetting to visit some place that updates less frequently or forget what I have read before and only realise half-way through re-reading something. I was always one for getting the broadsheet and going through it and seeing what was in the paper before reading anything. Quick scan through, work the headlines for a good order to attack what looks interesting or important. When RSS came onto the scene then it not only fixed some antiquated attempts to keep on top of a lot of webcomics (with their update days in the bookmark names to help me open the right ones with a good chance of getting the new funny and not missing any) but eventually moved most of the rest of my web reading into this ‘push’ format where new content alerts are pushed to me rather than me going out and asking about new content.

  10. I came across The Old Reader just recently in my search. Apparently it’s suppose to be something akin to the old Google Reader made by people who missed the old thing. I haven’t tried it yet, but it goes on the list of possibilities.

  11. I’ve been checking out theoldreader.com which is looking good at the mo. (Arrgh, google, I weep for what could have been!)

  12. @Mekhios and Shivoa – The first problem I’ve run into with RSS readers is granularity. I have a ton of different interests, and I tend to follow a lot of different sources for each one. I can either set up six or seven categories, each with far too much activity (in which case I’m presented with an overwhelming mental to-do list every time I stop browsing for a few hours) or I can do twenty or more categories.

    After a couple of weeks I always end up asking the same question: if I’m keeping twenty different categories in mind, (and keeping them organized, which uses a non-trivial fraction of my reading time and feels like documentation for work, rather than recreation) why am I bothering with an RSS reader?

    The second problem is a personal tendency toward free association. An interesting topic will send me off to look at previous posts, or to check other sources for contrasting points of view or related topics. Readers aren’t good at accommodating this, so I end up with a dozen browser tabs open anyway.

    The end result every time is that I go back to my old-fashioned bookmark list. I feel like I have control of my reading that way, rather than giving my RSS reader control over me. (Note the word “feel”. This undoubtedly isn’t the most efficient way of feeding myself information, it’s just the way I’m most comfortable with.)

    TL,DR: Not everyone thinks the same way.

  13. Sadly, a lot of the alternatives are crushed under the weight of people fleeing Reader. The mind boggles Google’s sense of scale if an insignificant number of people to Google can crush a large number of other sites.

    I kinda suspect we’ll see Google reverse their stance on this given the outcry I’ve seen so far. But, it’ll probably be too little too late; the damage is done.

    As I’ve quipped other places, it’s a nice reminder that with cloud-based software, you really don’t control anything.

  14. I switched from Google Reader to Netvibes several years ago and highly recommend it. It has a choice of viewing styles (list or tiled) you can use multiple tabs and it has a range of versions optimised for phones and tablets.

  15. It took me a while to move to Google Reader from doing basically what Aufero describes above but I’ve been very happy with Reader since then. I just used Google Takeaway (a service of which I was hitherto unaware) to Archive all my Google usage including Reader. I thought it best to download all of it because who knows what Google will close down next?

    I’ll wait a couple of weeks to look into alternatives, to let the dust settle and the pressure on their pipes ease. It’s entirely possible I will just drop the whole idea and go back to a Bookmark list. Unlike some commenters above I would like to have fewer blogs to read each day. I don’t just skip over the headlines – if I put a blog in my Reader and the blogger posts I will read what they have to say. I’ll also usually click through to the actual website so I can see it properly laid out. And then, of course, I will often end up commenting. This takes 60-90 minutes most days. I would be very happy to cut that in half.

    What I’m really concerned about is GMail. Thanks to MMO companies’ asinine insistence on using email addresses as login identities and the clear need to have unique IDs for every MMO, I have a *lot* of email addresses and lazily I have most of them with Google. If they decide to change or close that service I lose more than just a bunch of dormant email addresses, I lose access to most MMOs I play.

    Then there’s Blogger. How much longer do we give that? I was keeping a full back-up of Inventory Full but it now takes days and days to update so I have fallen into the habit of just using the Google back-up. Oh well, nothing lasts forever.

  16. I would like suggest another alternatives to google reader.

    Unlike ordinary RSS-readers, LikeHack (http://likehack.com) adds links from your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and also provides two kinds of custom filters to eliminate whole topics by keywords and exclude instagram photos and other media from your feed. It makes also all links you shared searchable.

    We have launched recently and glad to invite you to test!

  17. I assume they would at least leave GMail and Blogger open since both of these do generate some form of revenue. Plus they can data-mine both services to generated targeted ads and market research data.

    The suits at Google probably don’t see a way to monetise Reader or at least it did not generate sufficient income to justify.

    I think the days of Google running free services are fast approaching an end. They won’t charge but they won’t keep them running either. Let’s not kid ourselves – Google has become a corporate entity just like all the other “evil” companies on the net.

  18. I am very happy with Tiny Tiny RSS. It does all I want, and while the UI is very old-school style, it allows effective browsing and work.

    There is one large downside, however: it’s not a service provider, it’s a piece of software. You need a server with a webserver and an SQL database to make it run. If you have that, however, you should definitely check out http://tt-rss.org. (And I just checked the site, and it says they’re temporariliy downgrading to a low-volume website because of too much traffic. I wonder why…)

  19. I am supremely ticked about google reader being discontinued, more than I was about iGoogle. But as you said… you get what you paid for.

    What I don’t understand is why RSS feed usuage is going down? How do people follow websites these days without RSS feeds?

  20. @bhapuss

    If you are really concerned about gmail, i’d suggest looking into getting your domain and hooking that up with google apps. So you still get gmail, but the actual email address is yours, even if google shuts down.

    The irony is, some of the alternative readers require a Facebook or Google+ login, If you’re moving away from Google, the last thing i want to is now using my G+ account to login to a new service, talk about painting yourself into a corner!

    As for the whole google reader thing, that’s actually my homepage in the browser. I do however enjoy reading these magazine style readers too (Flipboard/News360) , but you are then literally “fed” articles from mass media. The moment you are interested in off-beat , smaller sites and blogs you are in trouble.

    Looks like i’ll be moving over to Feedly for now, at least they seem to have been well prepared for this scenario. The alternatives like Newsbuz, it’s not exactly free and today they certainly couldn’t handle the load, so for a service requiring you to pay to add more than 10 feeds , i wasn’t too impressed.

    Google Reader was 80% “RSS Aggregator” to me and 20% “reader”. I use alot of other apps to actually read it. So in the end i’m really just looking for cloud service to managed my feeds, with enough integration with apps/browsers that i don’t need to configure my feeds everywhere.

  21. @Psychochild – The only roadblock to a reprieve for Reader I can see is that the one thing Google has in mass quantity is arrogance. There is no “the customer is always right” in that organization, just “the customer must be made to see our wisdom.” If Google thinks closing Reader will drive people to G+ or Currents or whatever (because the “RSS is dying” argument is a smoke screen), then Reader will close.

    @Montstandet – I wouldn’t bet against that.

  22. I switched to feeddemon and its working great. I like how it brings you instantly to the full web version of the posts, has nice thumbnail images in the feed and auto imports your feeds from google reader during setup.

  23. I very much doubt that Google did this to drive traffic to G+. I don’t think they are that stupid. I think they felt it didn’t drive revenue for them in any way, nor did it supply them with useful data to mine.

    I think it is quite unlikely that they will reverse themselves on this. They know how many people use Reader. I’m sure they expected them to be unhappy.

    I signed up for feedly, and it seems to be not crushed at all. The UI has all the same things that were a bit off-putting about other UI designs, too.

    But all change is hard.

  24. @Toldain – Well, I don’t know their real agenda. They have a sizable audience… enough to noticeably tax competing services when sent packing… and they are pushing them away. I cannot imagine that “close it down” was really the only option for Reader.

    My G+ barb was primarily because the last time they “fixed” Google Reader, it was to integrate G+ and take away features that would otherwise detract from G+. They have also pushed G+ integration into YouTube now as well. I cannot publish a video without it going to G+. I think being/beating Facebook still has a serious hold on some execs at Google.

    And there is the arrogance thing. They believe themselves to be the smartest people in the room in a way that only Apple can compete with.

    @Mekhios – Random observation… why don’t your comments get numbers like everybody elses? What is your special power?

  25. @silvertemplar I have thought of getting my own domain. Mrs Bhagpuss has one for her business and its very cheap. I also quite fancy having my own website again – I had one long before I ever heard of blogging. Another thing to look into.

  26. Pingback: Nimm mir nicht mein Spielzeug weg… | Zentriere Dich

  27. @Wilhelm
    “Random observation… why don’t your comments get numbers like everybody elses? What is your special power?”

    Egads! You are right! I have no idea.

  28. WordPress.com put up a blog post of their own to remind people that they have a built-in reader. Given its paucity of features and one-size-fits-all interface, I cannot imagine that they seriously believe it to be an acceptable substitute. But, technically, they do offer a reader.

    We’ll see what happens to my comment on their post about its features.

  29. Sorry to keep necroing this thread but I found another RSS Reader and it is very good (and free).

    RSS Owl – http://www.rssowl.org/. It is a Java based program. It supports the list format I prefer (as opposed to readers like Feedly) and most importantly it is cross-platform on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

    It is not locked into Google Reader synchronisation and stores its own lists. It supports OPML list imports and exports. It is still being regularly updated with the latest version Dec 2012.

  30. Pingback: Replacing Google Reader with some other RSS reader I can stand the face of | Reality AFK: Priesting Downunder

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