Many of you are probably aware of Google’s recent announcement to decommission their Google Reader product on July 1st, 2013. I’m first to admit there’s something a bit dated and clunky about RSS readers (or news aggregators, as they’re sometimes called). Yet, I’d come to rely on Google Reader quite a bit, over the years.
There are a number of excellent blogs and websites I find quite important to my efforts, and I’m always interested when something new gets posted on one of them. In most cases, I’ll subscribe for email notifications (if provided), or watch for announcements of postings on dedicated Twitter feeds on my phone.
[Assuming, of course, that the authors make an effort to regularly publicize their new postings via Twitter, something me and my good friend Allison Bailes both seem to excel at!]
But it’s still nice having an RSS reader to organize all your feeds, and keep you informed of changes. I like to think of it as “bookmarking with active alerts”, which essentially is what a reader is. In the particular case of Google Reader, a very devoted, user community surrounds the product, and I feel very sorry for these folks facing the prospect of having Google Reader taken away from them. I’m sure I’d be just as disappointed if, for example, Twitter were suddenly sunsetted with little warning and no obvious alternatives on the horizon.
Google claims the popularity of their Reader declined in recent years, and as a result, it ended up on a long list of products Google either is consolidating or scuttling. I’ve heard some folks speculate that reader-like functionality might be added to Chrome. I’ve also read where Google might want to reallocate Google Reader resources to Google+. But I’m not aware of any subsuming technology coming out of Google itself. And the only remedy suggested by Google seems to be exporting Reader subscription data to an XML file via Google Takeout, and then possibly importing it into any of a number of similar products. Not really all that helpful, frankly.
But recently, Feedly has been getting a lot of good press as a Google Reader replacement (two other alternatives also being talked about are Flipboard and Pulse). So, I decided to give Feedly a try. I installed a Feedly Chrome extension, gave it access to my Google account, and lo and behold, Feedly was all sync’d up with my Google Reader subscriptions. I also found that if I added a new RSS feed either to Feedly, or to Google Reader, it automatically appeared in the other reader. So it seems Feedly directly uses the Google Reader subscription file.
The Feedly user interface is indeed pretty minimalistic, but I rather like it. I also like the display options, especially the magazine and cards views. I’ve read that it’s highly flexible and configurable, but I suspect I’ll have neither the time nor the patience to really explore it much further than this.
I also installed the Feedly app for Android on my Nexus phone, and once again, so far, so good. It synchronizes with my existing Google Reader, and the user experience isn’t that far off from the browser UI. I suppose there’s something positive to be said about having all your Google stuff kept in synchrony under a single Google identity, and having a phone that’s likewise aware of that identity.
I often wonder and worry about the future of certain other Google products I’ve come to rely on, like Webmaster Tools, and especially FeedBurner, given Google’s decommissioning of AdSense for Feeds last fall. It’s certainly disconcerting when anything you find useful is suddenly deemed not so useful by the people in charge, and then taken away from you.
One of my favorite uses of Google Reader is monitoring Google Alerts that I’d configured for various keywords occurring on the Internet. Since these alerts are realized as RSS streams, they can easily be captured by a reader. Late yesterday, an alert based on the string “Birmingham Point” was triggered, as a result of my publishing this very article that you’re now reading. So it was nice seeing Feedly, as my Google Reader replacement, performing this activity for me, as well.