Thursday, March 14, 2013

Listography // Some Alternatives to Google Reader

I am a news junkie. This much is now blatantly obvious to me now that Google has announced that they are taking Reader out back and to put the old girl down on July 1st of this year. The amount of outrage and panic I'm currently feeling is decidedly unhealthy.

It's perplexing why Google spends its energy (and money) on frivolous-but-head-turning projects like self-driving cars, fancy glasses, and seldom used social networks while also slaughtering the worlds most popular RSS reader. Maybe the project manager just lost a bet. One thing is for sure - for those of us who consume news voraciously, life is going to change.

Google Reader's popularity was mostly a reflection of how simple the interface was and how little commitment was required to begin playing around with it. No download was required, just a google account, and some subscriptions to organize as you please. With that in mind I'm offering up a few suggestions as alternatives to Google Reader. I'm focusing on free, web-based options.

NetVibes // The most similar to Google Reader

netvibes Netvibes has two basic formats, the "reader" format and the "widget" format. They're clearly taking their queues from Google here. The two formats are practically mirror images of Reader and iGoogle respectively. The interface will be very familar to Google users no matter which you choose. Like Reader, the interface is not the most attractive. The pre-canned themes are not great, and some of the widgets in the widget view are pretty gnarly. Netvibes however is probably the most obvious reader surrogate out there for those looking to make the switch as painless as they can. Netvibes has also been around the longest by far and feels like a pretty sure thing to continue existing (unlike Reader).

  • Pros // Simple, multiple interface options, good organization
  • Cons // Unsubscribing is tricky

Flipboard // The most attractive option for tablet users

flipboard Flipboard is pretty unique and if you're looking to try something different this is a tool worth playing with. It sports a very impressive navigational style and slick design. I can easily see this being the most enjoyable option to flip through at home over coffee or on the train, especially on a tablet. All in all it's a lot of fun to use.

Unfortunately flipboard is not web ready and requires the app to use it in addition to an account. I also do not know how they plan to make money off the app, so it's future is somewhat uncertain.

  • Pros // Simple interface, visually attractive, photo-heavy, aggregates twitter and facebook too
  • Cons // Text is subjugated to images, mobile only, lots of swiping

Feedly // If you're ready for something totally new

feedly Feedly has a totally different feel, organization, and navigational style. It feels more like a newspaper format - which normally I do not enjoy - but it contains just enough organizational features under the hood to satisfy a RSS power-user like myself. I actually started using Feedly about two weeks ago, before the Reader news. Feedly is great at presenting organized new posts to read, however navigating to previously read posts can be tedious. For the last couple weeks, I'd actually been doing my reading in both. The big caveat to Feedly is that it requires a browser app which only works for Chrome and Firefox, so Internet Explorer users won't find this useful. Oh... It also has ads. Super-effective ads targeted to your feed content. Very dangerous.

Update: Feedly, once you install the app, also intercepts new RSS updates which is great if you're using it in conjuction with Google Reader but you'll need to double add if you're using it in conjunction with another RSS Reader.

  • Pros // Simple interface, aesthetically pleasing design, great organization
  • Cons // Difficult to navigate back to and find read articles, requires a browser app

Other Mentions

NewsBlur // A serviceable surrogate, but the 64-feed paywall excluded it from this list. It also stuck me as very slow. Perhaps because of the traffic spike they're most likely dealing with. If you're managing a small number of feeds it's probably still worth looking in to.
The Old Reader // Currently in beta. They're not set up right now to accommodate the sudden demand for their product. I was unable to test The Older Reader when writing this. It looks very nice though.
Twitter // Twitter is not a RSS reader, but you can set it up to function like one by following the right people.

My Pick?


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