Google Reader closed today. Most of the world won’t notice, but a lot of people I know are waking up this morning, seeing this…
…and thinking the same thing:
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.
Back when Google killed Reader’s sharing feature in favor of Google+ (which has totally taken off as a result), I discussed the obvious truth of free internet products: if you’re not paying for it, then you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
I’ve tried several alternatives in the past few months. Unfortunately, with Reader no longer available for back-end syncing, you can’t mix-and-match anymore. Previously, I used Reader itself for online desktop reading, Feeddemon for offline desktop reading, and an independent app for reading on my phone. Now I have to pick one.
I piloted the following in-depth:
- Feedly (pretty layout options, but all sacrifice looks for functionality)
- Netvibes (nice layout, if you choose the “reader” view rather than the default widgets, but no Android app yet)
- Old Reader (designed explicitly after Google’s product, so it should be familiar, but it also lacks an Android app)
I also glanced at a handful of others.
Ultimately I’ve chosen Newsblur. It has the best combination of features given my high-volume and high-mobility reading habits. The layout doesn’t waste space, is functional with just enough polish, uses all the keystrokes from Reader, and even has some clever additions. For example, the ability to switch between seeing the “feed” content and “text” content is helpful for those annoying sites that don’t put their full article text out over their RSS feed (I’m looking at you, Foreign Policy). And of course, Newsblur has an Android app.
Most promisingly, it has a sharing feature that mimics the original Reader’s function. Still haven’t quite figured it out though. That’s the downside. Newsblur is still a bit buggy.
The final upside? It costs $24/year for full features. How is that an upside? Because I’d rather be the customer than the product. That’s the cost of a book or two, and I spend more time reading RSS content than reading books. I hope the Newsblur team is working around the clock to capture the Reader refugees and keep us happy. From what I’ve seen, it aspires to be more than just a Reader replacement — it offers something better.