A year without Google Reader

Mashable reminds us that it’s been a year since Google Reader has been decommissioned.  They are also doing a survey to find out if people use more of RSS feeds now or less, what they’ve substituted it with and which tools people are using now to follow their favorite feeds.

I’ve completed the survey, but without any visible results just yet, I thought I’d talk about my situation here.  In the last year my use of RSS has decreased significantly.   Even though the actual number of the feeds I am subscribed to has increased, I read them less.  I share less.  I bookmark and blog about less.  And it’ nothing but the tool’s fault.  Even though Feedly is an excellent tool – fast, flexible, with mobile support, and aesthetically pleasing, it simply is not Google Reader, which I was practically embed into.  I’ve looked around for Google Reader alternatives, I tried a few.  Feedly is the best of the bunch for my taste, but it’s different.

So, with that in mind, what happened to all that free time that I used to spend in Google Reader?  Sadly, I have to admit that I’m much more on Facebook now.  Quality-wise, that’s a huge drop.  Instead of following my favorite writers, keeping in touch with all kinds of technology advances, and learning new things, I am now participating in flaming comment wars about nothing, and watching videos of cute kittens and bouncing boobs.  Cheap entertainment swallowed me and spat me out.  It’s exactly like never switching a television set was in the last century.  And it’s a pity.

And the saddest part is that I knew it would happen.  And if I knew, Google definitely knew that too.  And they killed Google Reader anyway.  And it’ll be a long time until I let it go…

Moving the RSS to Feedly

I’ve wrote a few posts on this blog in regards to RSS aggregators and a very unfortunate plug pull on Google Reader last year.  Since then, I’ve been a happy user of Bazqux.  But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying (yes, once again) Feedly and I decided that I finally like it enough to use it as my main RSS aggregator.  The interface has been further polished, the mobile and tablet apps are nicer than those that support Bazqux, and overall it is very pleasant on the eye without being too much in the way.


Gladly, the migration of RSS feeds from one place to another has been sorted out years ago – by simply exporting the list into OPML file and them importing the list at another place.  The only annoyance being the unread items count for a while, but those are quickly updated.

Aggregating feeds isn’t all that simple

As I mentioned a few times, one of my first start-up ideas was an RSS aggregator.  It was back in 2005 or so, before Google Reader was even alive.  Bloglines was the coolest tool, if I remember correctly, and it sucked badly.  I got together with a few friends of mine and we started coding.  It was an interesting challenge both technically and aesthetically.  But we got it to the point where it actually worked and wasn’t all too bad.  It was a weird mixture of Python, Perl, and PHP though.

Eventually, it became too much work.  We couldn’t figure out how to monetize the thing.  And Google Reader was announced.  That sort of killed the project.

A few month back, when the announcement of Google Reader’s end of life came out, I looked at the alternatives and wasn’t pleased.  I thought with all the technical advances in the last few years, and with my own improved knowledge, I could attempt the task again.  Yes, I know, I am hopeless optimist in a lot of matters.

At least this time it took just a few days to convince me not to pursue the goal.  Alternatives are plentiful.  Each and every one of them is light years ahead.  I still don’t enjoy front-end development.  And I still have no clue as to how to monetize it.  So, the Subs Reader got frozen.  At least I got it all in frameworks, and left it in the Open Source state.  If I ever will have another try, I can pick up from here.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve done the last time, was not documenting the project’s process at all.  I vaguely remember that I didn’t sleep for a few nights, trying to figure out all kinds of problems.  But what were they, I don’t remember.

Today, I came across a blog post which lists similar problems that I had to solve, but in greater number and variety.  Even if you aren’t thinking about writing your own RSS reader any time soon (or ever), you should still read through the Brian’s stupid feed tricks.  First of all, they clearly illustrate how much complexity is hiding in the details.  Secondly, they show non-standard is the web in general and RSS in particular.  If you do any kind of web crawling, you’d probably see half of the same issues in your application.  Thirdly, even if you aren’t crawling the web at all, but just code a web application or an API to one, you’ll many places where you can go wrong without noticing it.  All in all, it’s a great list of problems that everybody involved in web development can learn from.

Goodbye Google Reader

Today, June 30th, is the last day of Google Reader availability.  If you completely ignored all the noise around the matter, run quickly, export and backup your feeds.  Tomorrow Google Reader will be no more.

Google Reader


Of course, I’ve been on a quest for the Google Reader alternative.  Of course, I found plenty.  And, of course, none of them are exactly the same.  I’ve decided to stick with Bazqux, and I’ve paid my yearly subscription fee a few month ago.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of work went into many of the alternatives over the last months, as more and more people started looking for the new RSS home.  Some of that work was quite noticeable.  For example, Feedly changed in the last 100 days so much that I had to re-evaluate it completely.  And, also, new services were introduced – such as Digg Reader.

Still, with all that, it’s sad to see Google Reader go.  I’ve used it every single day and relied heavily on it for years.  Paraphrasing the classic quote: so long, and thanks for all the feeds.

Why Google Reader Really Got the Axe

When Google announced its plans to shutter Google Reader in March, the Internet freaked out. Twitter users raised their virtual pitchforks in outrage. Bloggers wept, scrambling to find a suitable replacement by the service’s July 1 death date.

Wired runs a take on why Google Reader is almost no more.  I do agree with most of the points on how the news consumption changed:

But there’s another reason Google decided to put its RSS reader to death. According to Mountain View, most of us simply consume news differently now than when Reader was launched.

“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process,” says Richard Gringras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google. “Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day — replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day.”

Google Reader, and other RSS readers, subscribe to this “old” model. You sit, you pore through the day’s news link by link. Yes, some people are glued to their readers constantly. (Guilty!) And yes, you can use an app like Feedly to get your RSS fix on the go, but it’s a passive news-getting experience. With its updates to Now and Plus, Google wants its readers to take this more active approach to news consumption.

But I don’t like this narrow view of the Google Reader (or other RSS readers).  RSS is not just for news.  Sure, news are an important part of Really Simple Syndication, but it’s not the only one.  There are many others – Wiki updates, mailing lists, commit messages, shopping updates for deals and stock clearances, etc.  Even if Google considers supporting those with Google+, the support is not there yet.  Heck, there isn’t even a publishing API for Google+.  As a blogger, I have built up a small audience of subscribers, but there is currently no way for me to transfer them all to Google+.  Unless I really push them, and then manually publish every post into Google+.  It even sounds ridiculous.

We’ll see how it plays out …

RSS + IFTTT + Evernote = Backup

This post is just a test.   I’ve created a new personal recipe using IFTTT service, which will pull the RSS feed of this blog, and create a new note in a specific notebook of my Evernote account.  This is not recommended as a backup solution of course (you should do a proper filesystem and database backups), but if it works as good as I imagine, then I can use it for part of my RSS aggregation.  For example, I follow some blogs that I’d like to save most of the posts, but not all, and then search through those.  With a similar recipe, RSS feeds can be pushed into my Evernote account, and I can then just delete those notes that I don’t need.

Anyways, if you haven’t tried out IFTTT or Evernote, I strongly recommend both.  Those services are magical.

Google Reader alternative quest

After the news of Google Reader demise broke out, I, like many others, started looking for an alternative.  There are many RSS readers out there, both free and commercial, but none of them is quite like Google Reader.   So, I thought, I’d share my adventures in hopes of more suggestions.

First of all, here are the things that I am looking for in an RSS reader:

  • Web based.  This is a requirement for me.  I want to be able to access my subscriptions from any computer connected to the World Wide Web.
  • OPML import and/or Google Reader synchronization.  I have around 300 feeds in the Google Reader currently.  I am not going to resubscribe to each one by one and reorganized them again.  Ideally, I want to have a Google Reader sync, which will mark the read items, etc.  In the worst case scenario, at least the OMPL import, so I can batch add all the feeds.
  • Rich content support.  I want to see embed images and videos in the feed items.  I want the text to have style.
  • Mobile app.  This is not a requirement per se, but a much wanted option.  I read a lot of RSS on the go.
  • Free.  Again, not a requirement, but a much wanted option.

Here is a list of the ones I tried:

  • The Old Reader. It looks like the old Google Reader, but it suffers now from all the spike of new accounts.  I’m trying to import my OPML, but I’m 30,000+ down in the queue.  The number keeps going up and down for the last two days, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually use the service.
  • Tiny Tiny RSS. I’ve installed it on my server and it does work somewhat well.  But the styling is very weak, and the experience is quite different from the Google Reader.  It will take me forever to get used to it, and while doing so, I’ll be constantly thinking of patching it up.  Removed, for now.
  • BazQux Reader.  I have reviewed this service a while ago.  It only got better with time.  In fact, this is the closest experience to Google Reader with a few extra bonuses, like item comments.  The service is not free, but not too pricey – choose between $9, $19, and $29 per year.  As far as the migration from Google Reader goes, this is the fastest service – two clicks, and you are already reading your feeds.  The only downside I see is mobile experience.  I couldn’t find the app for Android, and the website is not suited for smaller screens.
  • Feedly.  The best styling of all I’ve tried.  Nice mobile app.  But requires a browser extension on the desktop.  Also, the experience is a bit different from the Google Reader, so needs some getting used to.

So, as you can see, I am yet to decide.  There are also quite a few alternatives that I haven’t tried yet.  From the ones I’ve tried though, the two most likely candidates are Feedly and BazQux Reader.  Feedly looks beautiful and works well on the mobile.  BazQux Reader provides the best experience on the desktop.

Which ones have you tried and what’s your most likely alternative?  Have you made up your mind yet?

Google Reader is retiring

These are sad, sad news… Google is retiring their awesome Google Reader product.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Yes, I know, it’s not now, and I can get all my subscription data, but it’s still sad.  I guess it’s time to give BazQux Reader a little bit more attention.  Any other worthy alternatives?

P.S.: Slashdot discussion provides some …

BazQux Reader – RSS reader that supports comments

One of the first start-ups that I participated in was an effort to create a better RSS reader.  It way back a few years, before Google Reader was even launched, and the best option you had was Bloglines, which in itself was horrible at the time.  One of the things that we were implementing was the support for comments in the blog posts and articles.  Even back then many blogging engines and content management systems (CMS) supported comment feeds.  Too bad the whole thing failed.

But even with quite a few upgrades to Bloglines, and launch and redesign of Google Reader, and, in fact, launch and development of many other RSS readers, support for comments is still a rare feature to see.  Recently, I came across a web-based RSS reader that promoted comments as one of its primary features –  BazQux Reader.

I tried it and it seems to work fine.  However, it’s still too fresh for me to move all my RSS subscriptions over there.  Especially considering the fact that you can only have 15 RSS feeds in the free demo.  A full featured yearly subscription is about 25 Euro.  I don’t mind paying that for a tool that I use many hours a day.  But after using BazQux Reader for a bit, I don’t think it’s quite ready yet.  Maybe one day.

P.S.: Oh, and if you were wondering what kind of a name is BazQux – it’s a combination of two metasyntactic variablesbaz” and “qux“.  Sort of like “foo” and “bar“.  You probably won’t get it unless you are software developer of some kind.

The end of Bloglines

Via this post to Google Reader blog I’ve learned the Bloglines news.  The service will be closed on October 1st.

Today, Ask.com let our users know that we will shut down Bloglines on October 1. Not an easy decision, especially considering our loyal and supportive (not to mention patient) user base, but, ultimately, the right one given business reasons simply too hard to ignore.

While I myself switched four years ago, I know that some people are still using the service (hi mom!).  Everyone is encouraged to migrate to some other news reader. My recommendation is, of course, Google Reader.  And the migration process should be simple and straight forward: export subscriptions as a single OPML file from Bloglines and import them into Google Reader.

While Google Reader is a superior service these days, it came later and from a bigger company than the original Bloglines.  Back, when people were just figuring out how to use RSS en masse, Bloglines offered a simple and very convenient way.  It was so simple in fact, that you didn’t need to know much about RSS at all.  It was so simple, that even my mother, who avoids web services as much as possible, was able to use and enjoy it.

And even though I haven’t used Bloglines at all in the last four years, it’s sad to see it go.  For me it was one of those milestones in the Web history.