The death of Google Reader, and its potential successors
Google Reader is dead. After seven years of life and in the midst of steadily declining service, Google has pulled the plug on its RSS Reader, which will be fully discontinued at the beginning of June. Many of you will no doubt be disappointed by this, depending on your level of dependence on your RSS feed. But once you’ve managed to get over your initial panic attack, be advised that there are a number of highly functional alternatives to Google Reader to which you can quickly and easily relocate your subscriptions via Google Takeout. Here is a list of some of the possible successors to Google Reader’s throne.
First up is NewsBlur, which offers a slick interface with a cohesive visual design, to make reading very easy on the eye. It is also mobile friendly, with apps for Android and iOS, for those of you who have already embraced new technology in the tablet vs laptop debate. For those of you into content curation, you can even use NewsBlur to start up your own “BlurBlog” to host and comment on posts to your RSS feed. The major, major downside to this option is that NewsBlur has currently suspended the creation of free accounts due to increased demand, meaning that those who want to take advantage will have to pay for a premium account. This, however, does allow for an unlimitedly large feed, and access to all the site’s features.
Next, we have Feedly, which is probably the most likely all-purpose alternative to be adopted en-masse by GR refugees. Feedly has the advantage of being freely available on major platform – web, iOS and Android. It also offers a minimalistic approach similar to GR, but with a few modernisations that will likely appeal immensely to those at the cutting edge. These features include a magazine-style viewing option, the ability to organise parts of your feed into specific folders with different pre-set viewing styles, and a surprising degree of customisability in terms of its overall look. Its biggest advantage is definitely its free and robust mobile apps, which are likely to dominate in a market where Google’s API has vanished, which makes it the perfect alternative for tablet and smartphone users, even if only as a temporary stopgap.
Flipboard is another contender in this space, which is available on the iOS and Android platforms. A web version is missing here though. It offers a simplified way to navigate through your social and news feeds by just flipping through the items. Even though the mobile experience is good, Flipboard works exceptionally well on tablets with big colourful cover images. You can choose curated topics to subscribe to as well as as individual feeds. Flipboard is also offering a way to migrate your existing Google Reader feeds to their platform.
The Old Reader
A definite one-to-watch comes in the form of The Old Reader. Styling itself “the ultimate social RSS reader”, the Old Reader was created to replicate the style and features of the older version of Google Reader, meaning it is likely to feel very familiar to diehard GR users who have been using the product for a long time. It offers a robust replacement, allowing for a complete RSS experience with highly functional social elements. It is, however, hampered by its present lack of mobile and tablet apps, which may hamstring it at this early stage and prevent it from picking up a huge number of those in the RSS wilderness – at least right now. The Old Reader is still only in a beta stage, and it is definitely worth keeping an eye on its development; once it emerges in its final form, it may offer an experience akin to a much improved version of Google Reader, as its design philosophy suggests.
Beyond these more promising alternatives, a number of smaller players exist. These include NetNewsWire (a dependable if visually outdated Mac-only app which will currently undergo major redesign in the near future), Pulse (an independent platform which is now offering features to speed the import of your Google Reader subscriptions which also boasts companion mobile apps) and the NetVibes site (which isn’t an RSS reader at all, but a social dashboard utility that can do the job of an RSS reader and is both free and highly functional in its implementation). And this is just the beginning. Far from Google Reader’s shutdown signalling the end for RSS, this much beloved platform will likely see much expansion and innovation over the coming months. Google Reader, much beloved as it was, had essentially created a situation in which developers were actively being discouraged from making their own RSS back end, which means that several reader apps are now going to be left worryingly adrift unless they can adapt fast. With this monolithic force now gone, developers will be forced to innovate to set themselves apart from the crowd. The future will probably still be dominated by larger and already existing forces, but we can expect much more diversification in terms of smaller specialist apps for more niche markets.
Joanna Stevenson studied Computer Science in London, and currently works in digital consulting. She enjoys writing tech articles in her free time and aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast