Five alternatives to Google Reader
This week Google followed through on its announcement earlier in the year that it was going to ‘retire’ Google Reader, its much-loved content feeder tool that allowed users to track their favorite web sites in one easy-to-read location. That Google would go ahead and close Google Reader over the objections of millions (okay, tens of thousands) of irate customers says volumes about how Google views the future of the web and the continued dominance of social networks.
Like many other feed readers, Google Reader organized content from a myriad of web sources in one constantly updated stream. Users could add or delete any number of different web sites and, rather than visit the sites themselves, could instead wait for the content to come to them.
But the role of Google Reader changed with the arrival of Facebook, and then again with Twitter. Instead of turning to their favorite web readers, content seekers now had far more personalized and interactive feeds for their constant fix of news, opinion, and good old Internet gossip. Perhaps the launch of Google+, Google’s own social network, was the final nail in the Google Reader coffin. If Google had to choose where it would like you to go to get real-time updates of what’s happening around the world, Google+ would surely get the nod.
But where does that leave Google Reader devotees and others who prefer selective updates rather than the unfiltered noise that accompanies ‘real’ news on Twitter and other social networks? Well, fortunately there are other readers aside from Google Reader. In fact, the demise of Google Reader has caused the competition to up its game to attract the hordes of newly abandoned content hounds, and it has even brought some new players into the feed reader fray. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Perhaps the most popular of the Google Reader alternatives, Feedly offers the straightforward list option that Google Reader users are familiar with, or you can opt for a more magazine-style view. Feedly will suggest additional news and reading material based on topics you already subscribe to, and there are a whole raft of sharing options and flexible tools like the Save for Later bookmarking option. Feedly is free, can be customized for any browser, and has companion apps for iOS and Android.
Netvibes is both a reader and a personal dashboard for much of your web-based activity, including Facebook, Twitter, and even e-mail. You can choose from multiple default formats, concentrating on topics such as news, sports, finance, etc., or you can build your own dashboard from scratch. You can even add your favorite apps or select from an array of widgets to further personalize your Netvibes experience. You can opt for a list format or choose a more magazine-style mosaic format. The basic reader and dashboard service is free or you can opt for a paid account, which includes social analytics, alerts and other premium features.
If you only get your news while you’re on the move, then consider Flipboard, the mobile news-gathering app for iOS and Android devices. The beauty of Flipboard is that it presents your feeds in a polished magazine-style format, which is perfect for tablets. Along with regular RSS feeds, you can also get updates from social networks such Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. You ‘flip’ pages with a simple swipe of the screen, making for easy and satisfying on-the-go navigation.
A new entrant into the feed reader market, AOL Reader provides a clean, no-nonsense approach to organizing and presenting feeds from selected web sites. Using Twitter, Facebook or your AOL account to log in, you can then enter individual web sources or browse the usual categories – news, technology, sports, lifestyle, etc. There are a few different viewing options, including list view, a card view, and a panel view, but as yet, there is no option to view stories magazine-style. Companion apps for mobile are promised in the very near future.
Another new entrant into the feed reader market, and best described as a work-in-progress, Digg Reader is an offshoot of the popular Digg news web site. The good thing about Digg Reader is that it allows you to import your Google Reader settings through Google Takeout, a service designed to give you control and flexibility over your Google data. Once you import your data (or upload new web sources from scratch), Digg Reader gives you the similar listing view of your feed that you got with Google Reader. There are plans to add additional features to Digg Reader over time but for now it will give you the basics and make the Google Reader user feel more at home than many of the alternatives.