The departing Google Reader and its alternatives

On Wednesday Google announced they will be discontinuing Google Reader, their RSS feed aggregator, on July 1st, 2013 after eight years of service. Even though the usage has declined according to the company, the ripples spurred by this stone are the size of a tsunami. Every news site ran the article, every tech site looked at the reasons behind the termination, every productivity blog compared and contrasted its alternatives and all those posts were followed by hundreds of comments.

Why? What are the official reasons given? It seems to be the diminishing user base and the fact that the organization wants to concentrate on fewer products. (You can read the full announcement on the official Google Reader blog.) As always there are several different reason making rounds among the Reader’s dejected users, the most prominent of which is the fact that it probably wasn’t bringing enough, if any, money into Google.

Will Google offer a replacement service? I don’t have the answer to this question. However I do recall that when adding a new feed to Google Reader I was often asked whether I would like it to be added to my favorite RSS aggregator or the Google+ homepage. That leads me to believe that users may be asked to migrate there. I am most definitely not the only one to think so and just like so many of the like-minded I don’t want to.

Reflecting on the tsunami (and an another reason I’ll list shortly) you can see there are a lot of people who use the service daily, whether it is for their work, studies or entertainment. Google Reader offers a statistics page (located under Trends in the left hand column), screenshots of which have flooded the comment sections – among other information you can find the number of items you have read in the past 30 days there. The numbers were nearing 3000 items in the shots I’ve seen, which means close to 100 read posts/day. If you follow me on twitter (@dorrykun) you might already know that I read about 55 news items per day using Google Reader.

What are the alternatives? I’ll probably wait until the end of June to migrate my feeds hoping Google will change their mind or offer a good replacement before discontinuing my beloved. I do however realize neither of those is likely. Without further ado let us take a look at some (5) alternatives – I’m looking for a web-based reader which can house my eighty or so feeds, preferably at least as clean and organized as Google Reader is/was. (Click the logos to open their respective sites.)

Currently my #1 candidate is feedly. Within hours of Google’s announcement, they were ready to house runaways promising a seamless transition and are working hard to make them feel at home, introducing new features, listening to their requests and comments.

From their Friday blog post I quote: “More than 500,000 Google Reader users have joined the feedly community over the last 48 hours. We love passionate readers. Welcome on board.”

Excuse me? Half a million users? I haven’t migrated yet, neither has my girlfriend and I highly doubt we are alone. Why would Google drop 500 000+ active users? (I bet Google+ has less. Last time I checked it barely had 250k active users.) What’s more, these people also caused the feedly Apple app’s surge to the top of Apple’s “top free apps” chart.

My second favorite is The Old Reader. You see, in autumn of 2011 Google disabled some features in Google Reader, namely rating posts, sharing articles with other users and viewing others’ comments. These features were then replaced with Google+ social buttons. As the website says The Old Reader is “the old Google Reader but better.” Bottom line you will find 99.9% of the features you are used to here and some “new” social ones on top of that.

The only reason I like feedly better is its support – the three-person team behind The Old Reader have regular day jobs and are doing this in their free time. The difference in scale is staggering.


Number 3 is NewsBlur. At first glance it seems pretty good, maybe even better in some aspects. It offers real-time RSS of course, some social options, a mobile app (uninteresting to me) and so on. On the other hand it’s not all that pretty and clean, which is rather important for me considering how often I stare at it. I would still be willing to overlook that, but what definitely made me abandon this option is the maximum number of feeds I could have. A total of twelve…

Another often mentioned alternative is Netvibes. I don’t really understand why it’s been mentioned so often. The free version has a bare minimum of functions and the paid ($449/month) is for larger companies who are interested in some detailed statistics.

The final replacement proposed by the internet community is a service I use even more often than Google Reader and simply cannot imagine it taking the place of an RSS aggregator. Twitter? Allow me to laugh myself to death. If I read everything on my timeline I would be spending 4 hours per day doing just that. Not to mention I leave some posts sit a while before I read them (exempli gratia I don’t read anime episodicals until I watch the episodes) which wouldn’t be possible on Twitter.

If you have any good alternatives please tell me in the comments! (Any other thoughts on the subject are also welcome of course.)


2 comments on “The departing Google Reader and its alternatives

  1. The only disadvantage of Feedly is no web-based app. Hope they will offer it in the future, if I was using another browser I wouldn’t have the opportunity to use Feedly at all…

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