It’s not that RSS is dead Jim, it’s that it will never be the same…

Google Reader - Sad Times!

There are mixed opinions to the news of Google Reader’s demise from the eternally distraught who have taken a furious stance on this action, through to those who don’t care either way.  Another reaction is, it will be sad to see Reader go, but the world is not at an end, RSS is very much alive still.

I must admit, RSS is very much alive, and there are alternatives picking up the pieces Google will be leaving behind, but, after using a couple touted as the closest replacements, I can’t help but feel current fans are going to miss Reader more than people think.

I have given others a try as mentioned and the general consensus has been towards Feedly so I decided to give it a fair try.  Indeed I also tried The Old Reader which is a social reader built around the old Google Reader idea of sharing.  None of them will be satisfactory for me to replace Reader, but I thought it fair to explain why they don’t quite work for me.

The Old Reader

Firstly, in terms of feel this is the closest to Google Reader.  Whilst Feedly is a lot more polished with a magazine feel, this is a slightly slicker Reader experience based on the days of Google Reader before the launch of Google+.

If it’s all the same to you, I must say, aside from the pain of reorganising 357 feeds in to the order I’m used to, there are limitations to The Old Reader which take away from its promise of behaving just like Google Reader:

  • According to The Old Reader none of my current feeds have posts before mid-February 2013.  I revisit my comic archives and other articles are searched for within my feeds in reader quite regularly.  This doesn’t help.
  • Sporadically updated feeds have older entries parsed, but again a limited amount.
  • The search is awfully slow.  Not sure if a demand issue at the moment or inherent issue with the site.
  • The interface is clean but on some screens I can’t see the separation between articles as clearly (minor issue)
  • Sharing is, as far as I can tell, a one-click process to share with other members of The Old Reader – makes sense as they’re building their own social reading experience, but other sharing options (save for connecting to Facebook) are limited.

Overall it’s not a bad solution and probably the one I would stick to if only it would give me access to my older items.  With Google Reader keep scrolling, more feed items will load and you can carry on reading them, here we don’t get that.  The Old Reader is simple and does most of the job, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

Oh, and occasionally, quite possibly due to recent high demand, you do get this:

The Old Reader Error


This is an elegantly presented solution which serves as a good middle-ground between a magazine-style news aggregation tool like Flipboard, but with conventional list views possible, as well as a pretty powerful search function.  I tried this on Firefox on my work PC, but upon going to install this on Chrome at home, this rang alarm bells:

Feedly on Chrome - Accesses everything!

Er… No thanks!

Access my data on all websites? No thanks.  This is the start of why I can’t use Feedly to replace Reader. More reasons? Well:

  • Feedly is available only as (intrusive) add-ons or apps for phones created by Feedly themselves.  Reader was available as an API for some (fantastic) third party apps
  • Reader is available on any browser at any time, synced and ready without the need for addons.  Feedly isn’t available the same way, though The Old Reader is so bonus points there for our previous contender!
  • Feedly’s app, for Android at least, feels a bit too simplified compared to the aspirations of it’s web add-ons. It also falls short of a swift headline crunching app. Third party Reader widgets (for now!) and Currents as an app alone do the job better
  • Feedly’s widget is okay, but doesn’t always pull off the most interesting stories like Appy Geek tends to for my tech needs. Oh, and it does have a tendency to crash.

For most, Feedly will do. Sharing to various networks gives it one over The Old Reader, and it has it’s current Google Reader integration, so mark something read there, it’s synced with Reader.  Great for a transition, but I fear relying on it too much will end in further heartbreak for those who decide it is their replacement.  I don’t expect it to be around forever.  If Google Reader can die, nothing is safe anymore.

There’s a hole still going to be left when Reader goes, no matter what they naysayers proclaim.  Nothing works quite so well and I can only see three potential options for Google in the face of this:

  1. Keep Reader going. It’s fine as it is and no-one will need additional support or tweaking.  It doesn’t need to be a project that drains resources beyond what it does data-wise.  No human resources needed here.  This is the option that makes the most sense to me and many others
  2. Shut Reader down, give Currents a web-presence and allow full import of Reader feeds seamlessly.  Google are clearly still very much interested in the news, and as an app goes Currents is fantastic for news, but could there be potential to integrate this to give it a little more of a Reader flexibility with Currents polish? Maybe.  The widget still needs work
  3. Shut Reader down, do nothing.  Be hated by those that loved Reader, and hope they forgive and forget. If you’re feeling generous give Reader to someone who gives a damn and will happily keep it going.

In any case, this video tells the pain of losing an important tool in a way I could never do, and also analyses some of the other options very well…  IN SONG! 😮