The Death of Google Reader Puts Alternative RSS Readers in the Spotlight
Image Credit: AJC1 via Flickr

The Death of Google Reader Puts Alternative RSS Readers in the Spotlight


A relatively small but vocal group of information-devouring Internet users are mourning the death of Google Reader. Google pulled the plug on its instant content aggregation service Monday, with users scrambling for other services that can compile all of their favorite news feeds into one convenient interface.

A Reader “obituary” in The New Yorker said, “Google Reader had come to define the way many of its information-addicted users sorted through otherwise unmanageable amounts of Web content. It provided an answer to a question everybody asks when they sit down in front of a computer: What should I read right now? Everything.”

Google announced that Reader would be “powered down” in a March 13 blog post on the Google Reader Blog. The three month sunset period has finally come to a close. The search giant cited a diminished user base and a refocusing of company talent to other products and services as reasons for the service’s retirement. Current users can back-up their RSS feeds with Google Takeout and transfer them to another service – many of which have sprouted up since the announcement of Reader’s impending demise.

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Perhaps the most popular Google Reader replacement at the moment is Feedly. Thanks in no small part to Google Reader’s death notice, Feedly tripled its user base from four to 12 million between March and June. The minimalist-styled service is pleasing to the eye and simple to use, with fine-tuned Android and iOS apps to compliment the traditional web version. According to VentureBeat, Feedly processes over 25 million feeds a day that include billions of articles.

Feedly is now based in the cloud, which makes switching from Google Reader even easier. There is no need to save your current RSS feeds with Google Takeout – simply log into Feedly with your Google Reader-associated account and you will be given the option of importing them. Feedly’s adoption of the cloud also means that your feeds will sync seamlessly across different devices and web browsers running the service.

Digg, a social news site which allows users to “dig” or “bury” web content through voting, announced the creation of their own RSS feed reader last month. The open beta version went live last week to generally positive reviews. Digg Reader is currently free, but the company plans to roll out a paid premium service in the future.

You will need a Google account to connect with Digg Reader, as there is no standalone option for making a unique username and password. Much like Feedly, Digg Reader allows you to import Google Reader data without backing anything up. There is an iOS app for Digg’s new service, but people using Android-based smartphones will have to wait a little while longer.

Digg Reader lacks some of the added features and polish that Feedly offers – but it is also a much younger service. Feedly launched in 2008, and Digg Reader has only existed for about four months.

Aside from web-based Google Reader alternatives, there are a few mobile apps that offer customizable news aggregation. Two of the best are Flipboard and Pulse.

Flipboard leads the pack, with Facebook said to be modeling its own news service after the wildly popular app. The service boasts more than 56 million users, with a colorful, attractive interface that allows users to flick the screen to “flip” through articles. The virtual flipping of pages creates a bit of nostalgia for physical magazines and newspapers.

Pulse is another viable contender. While Flipboard’s cover page displays large tiles with main topics of interest, Pulse fills the screen with rows upon rows of news previews that can be horizontally scrolled through. It might appear somewhat cluttered on a smartphone screen, but it looks great on a tablet. Pulse puts more news at your fingertips without having to flip through articles one at a time, and also offers a dark background with light text to help combat eye strain.

Google Reader’s passing might be the best thing that could have happened for fans of the service. The loss of Reader has forced others to build upon the RSS feed-gathering service, giving the news-obsessed public innovative new alternatives that just might be better than the original.

Which service have you switched to in light of Reader’s demise? What do you miss about Reader or hope to see implemented in other RSS feed aggregators? Sound off in the comments section below.

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