We’re all seriously bummed about Google Reader shutting down. However, while its departure does leave a big RSS-shaped hole in the universe, there are others news reading apps and services out there stepping up to replace it with syncing features and easy import tools to keep you organised. In this week’s Hive Five, we’re going to highlight five of the best, based on your nominations.
We offered up a list of Google Reader alternatives the same day news of the closure broke, but it’s worth revisiting the topic with the benefit of reader input. The services highlighted below all emulate the best features of Reader itself: syncing, multi-platform, web-accessible. There are many more options out there (make the case for your favourite in the comments), but these are all solid choices.
The Old Reader is still in beta, but is designed to be a direct replacement for Google Reader. And not just Google Reader as we know it now, but the old Google Reader that offered more tools for sharing and organisation. You can log in via Google or Facebook, and import your feeds from Google Reader or any other service via OPML. The interface looks a lot like Google Reader, complete with folders down the left side, your list of stories in the main pane (click any to read), and one-click subscription to new feeds. You get all the same keyboard shortcuts, and even get the ability to follow other Old Reader users and share interesting stories with them, the way you used to be able to with Google Reader. The Old Reader is fast, free and super-simple to use. There are no mobile apps yet, but the web site works well on mobile devices, and the developers behind it note they’re working on it. There are Chrome and Safari extensions for it.
NewsBlur was one of the first services people suggested when the Google Reader closure was announced. NewsBlur has a really well-built interface that’s similar to Google Reader, but with some useful bells and whistles that make reading a little more fun. For example, you can toggle the original view and display articles the way they show up on their respective sites, or read them the way they’re presented in their RSS feeds, or view them text-only to get rid of the images and the page fluff. You can share stories with friends, save them for future reading, star them, and start your own “blurblog” of featured stories you want to share. If you like to keep up with news on the go, NewsBlur’s iPhone, iPad and Android apps do the job will bring you the latest stories anywhere you are. The big restriction? Free accounts are capped at 64 blogs, 10 stories at a time, and public sharing options. Premium users ($US24/year) can subscribe to as many sites as they want, get all the latest stories at one time, get faster site refreshes, and can share publicly or privately. Sadly, if you don’t already have a free account, you can’t get one right now — due to high demand, they’ve temporarily stopped free users from signing up.
Feedly was a very popular reader nomination, and many of you used Feedly long before Google announced it was shuttering Reader. Feedly has long been one of your favourite RSS readers and news aggregators. We’ve mentioned the service quite a few times as it has grown and updated. In addition to having a rich news suggestion algorithm that makes it easy to surface articles that you’ll find interesting, it’s a rich social tool that lets you share stories with your friends and post them to your favourite social networks, and offers a handy set of keyboard shortcuts. Saving stories for future reading is easy, and Feedly offers layout choices that let you read the news in the manner you choose — whether it’s straight headlines from top to bottom, full articles, neatly arranged tiles, or images all laid out on a page. Best of all, Feedly has said that while right now it connects to Google Reader and sync with it, it is building a new syncing engine so Feedly users can seamlessly continue using the service long after Google Reader turns off the lights. Stay tuned for that. Feedly also offers add-ons for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Netvibes is primarily a social aggregation and dashboarding service, but that doesn’t stop it from being a robust RSS news reader. Basic accounts at Netvibes are free, and are all you really need to keep track of your feeds ((the features in the paid Premium and Pro accounts don’t make much difference in this context). You can take the suggested feeds they start you off with, or you can import your own via OPML. Add widgets for weather, finance, and top news stories to your dashboard and you get a useful homepage that also shows you the new stories from your favourite sites. Don’t look for mobile apps in this case though — Netvibes doesn’t have any. It does offer a mobile site designed for smart and dumb phones alike (it auto-detects which one you’re using and sends you to the right place.) This will let you read the news, but it won’t let you edit anything.
Pulse is only partially a syncing RSS reader — it relies heavily on its own news filtering algorithms to help you find the stories that they think you’ll enjoy. You can use it as a way to just keep up on all the latest stories from the blogs you like to read, but when you nominated it as one of your favourite news aggregators, it was because it was great at lifting the interesting stories to the top. It departs from the traditional news reader UI for a more visual, tiled approach. That said, Pulse does let you import your Google Reader feeds (though only via its mobile apps), and since it operates its own back-end, it will handle the syncing and management for you. Pulse offers a webapp and mobile apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets. You can easily save stories for later, share with friends, filter by category, and pick up where you left off on a new device without losing your place.
Honourable mentions this week go out to TinyTinyRSS, a self-hosted RSS reading app that allows you to grab your feeds on any system, as long as you have a web host and you’re comfortable installing and setting it up. The Since there’s a Tiny Tiny RSS Android client to go with it, it’s worth a look. Plus, it’s free and open source, which means at the end of the day you own your feeds and your data, and it won’t shut down on you.
We should also remind everyone that Google Reader isn’t going anywhere just yet; the service doesn’t shut down until July 1, which gives plenty of time for new options to emerge. Many of the popular apps will roll their own syncing agent and try to stay alive in a post Google Reader-universe. Reeder, our favourite news reader for Mac and iOS, has already it is working on something, as is Feedly. Sadly, FeedDemon, our favourite for Windows, says the end of Google Reader is the end for it too.
Know of another alternative we haven’t discussed yet? Tell us in the comments.