Now that Google Reader is shutting down, I’m looking for alternative ways to read my RSS feeds. And if you’re one of those people who must have their RSS feeds pried from their cold-dead hands, I imagine you’re looking for alternatives too. Here’s a short list of some of the services that could fit the bill.
Pre-emptive disclaimer: No, I don’t consider flipping through links on Twitter/Facebook a replacement to RSS subscriptions. I know that works for lots of people, but not me. I like a more curated reading experience, and ensuring I don’t miss articles from specific blogs & authors. To me, reading whatever is on Twitter is like mindlessly watching whatever happens to be on TV or listening to whatever the radio is playing.
And with that rant out of the way, let’s find a new home for our RSS feeds!
Fever is a self-hosted PHP app you install on your own server (like WordPress). The awesome thing about Fever is that it scans all the links in your feed and makes the “hottest” rise to the top. The more feeds you subscribe to, the better Fever works. It’s got an iPhone-friendly layout too. And since it’s built by Shaun Inman you know it’ll be beautifully designed. Likely worth the reasonable $30 price tag.
NetNewsWire (NNW) is an RSS reader with versions for Mac, iPad and iPhone. Although most people use it to sync with Google Reader, it does also support standalone mode. The downside to this, of course, is that your subscriptions won’t be synced across devices. I used NNW years ago, before Reeder came out, and was overall pretty happy with it.
NewsBlur is a hosted service for managing your RSS feeds. It’s got a web-based reader and clients for iPhone, iPad and Android. They have a free version of the service with some limitations (like number of feeds, stories, and “Feeding poor Shiloh”) and a premium version for $1/month (seriously). Looks like a pretty good service, though their servers are currently slammed with traffic.
I haven’t tried The Old Reader but they claim to offer an experience “just like the old google reader, only better.” They’re currently in beta, but you can import your feeds and give it a try. It’s a hosted service and appears to be free, though there is no explicit mention of this.
FeedHQ is a feed reader “built with readability and mobility in mind.” They offer some unique features, including syntax highlighting (for readers of programming blogs) and keyboard shortcuts. FeedHQ will be a paid service, but appears to be free during the beta testing period.
I absolutely love Reeder. To me, it’s the perfect reading experience. I use it on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. The downside is that it currently requires a Google Reader account — it does no subscription management of it’s own. But it hides this fact ever so elegantly. In fact one friend claimed he used Reeder instead of Google Reader, and replied “well I’ll be damned” when I pointed out it only works when hooked into Google Reader.
This is a huge opportunity, in my opinion, for the Reeder team to transparently ditch syncing through Google Reader and instead switch their suite of apps to sync through iCloud. Or perhaps they could build their own sync service (and sprinkle a web UI on top). I would certainly pay for that, and I’m willing to bet others would, too.
They’ve nailed the most important part: the reading experience. And for this reason they have a head start on anyone else.
I’m not totally sure what I’ll end up using, but like Marco suggests I think we’ll see a lot of innovation and new players in RSS over the coming months. I know many people say RSS is “dead,” but I think there will always be a large enough group of RSS users to support a healthy ecosystem of products in this geeky niche.
What will you be using to read your RSS subscriptions?