Photo by Florian Boyd
One of the most important, if minor, web innovations of the past decade is the widespread adoption of RSS or, as it’s popularly called, Really Simple Syndication by bloggers and other regular producers of online content. By itself, though, RSS was only of interest to coders. The real benefit came with the RSS Reader.
While early RSS readers were desktop-based, and a bit clunky, Google’s entry into the field in 2005 made it easier than ever to keep up with your favorite news outlets and blogs. Google Reader was web-based, so you didn’t need to install special software. With Google Reader it was easy to share posts, so you could rely on friends and colleagues to keep you updated with the most interesting articles on the web. And Google Reader’s mobile interface was excellent, making it easy to keep up to date with the news no matter where you were.
Even though there were many RSS readers out there, Google Reader quickly became ubiquitous among those who read blogs daily. But, earlier this year, Google announced that they were closing down the Reader on July 1, leaving its loyal users to find a replacement service.
Whether you’re a reader or producer of RSS content, the end of Google Reader has consequences for how you spend your time online. In this series, we’ll focus on the impact of the end of Google Reader, and what to do about it. We’ll start by focusing on the obvious question: what’s the alternative to Google Reader? In recent months, a number of companies have jumped feet-first into the RSS reader game, so your options are better than ever. Here’s what we like:
Of all the Google Reader alternatives, Feedly has made the strongest play for Google’s customers. It automatically imports your old Google account, and its clean, easy to use interface is, in some ways, even better than Google. For example, if you need to clear out unread articles from your feed, you can just click an “X” next to the headline and move on to the next one. Feedly offers extensions that allow you to read it on Chrome or Firefox, and there are apps for iOS and Android.
If you hate, hate, hate app bloat, Newsvibe is the super-simple, web-based RSS reader for you. There are no extra features, but it does have a clean interface and is perfect for someone who wants to catch up on their RSS feed without installing an extra extension or application.
If you miss Google Reader’s social sharing features, Newsblur might be right for you. It integrates your RSS feeds with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, so you can keep track of all of your news outlets from a single interface. Like many apps, Newsblur is free for moderate users, but if you use a RSS reader daily you’ll have to pay extra.
Explicitly designed as an replacement for Google Reader, Feedbin offers many of the same features, like automatically locating RSS feeds from a URL, in a clean, simple interface. A robust set of keyboard shortcuts make this a worthy replacement for Google Reader. While you’ll have to pay for this web-based reader, it’s less expensive than the alternatives.
Like Newsblur, Flowreader gives all your news sources, from Facebook to Twitter to RSS, a home, and helps your organize your news so your paranoid aunt’s warnings about genetically modified food don’t disrupt your work reading. Even better, Flowreader is free, so it’s a great place to experiment with integrating your news sources.
Although we’ll all miss Google Reader when it goes, there are a healthy range of alternatives out there, from the simple to the social, and, with time, there will be a solution that works for you. For now, at least, you can keep your RSS habit.
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