On Wednesday Google announced on their official blog that they would be shutting down Google Reader on July 1st 2013. For those of you who have never heard of it Google Reader provides a way to read all your favourite content in one single place, and it’s frequently used by those of us who like to read lots of blogs. Here’s the official Google line:
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.
I was very sad to read that news. I use Google Reader on a daily basis to keep up with my favourite blogs, as I am one of that “loyal following”. Chances are some of you are reading this post with it too. So today I’ve been doing some research to see what alternatives are out there.
Now when I say I use Google Reader on a daily basis, I don’t actually use the web version all that much. I use apps on my iPad and iPhone to read blog posts, and they use my Google Reader account to synchronise what I have and have not read. I’m quite picky about my blog reading – I have all my blog subscriptions organised in folders in Google Reader, which allows me to group similar blogs together, and also have some folders that I check every day, and others that I dip in and out of as I have time. I use iOS apps that replicate that folder structure, and my readers of choice are Mr Reader on the iPad and Feeddler Pro on the iPhone.
So what I am going to do now Google Reader is going away?
Well, first of all, I’m not going to panic. I’ve got three and a half months to try out alternatives and see what happens. You see, the developers of my favourite apps also only just heard this news, like me. I am sure they want to keep their apps going, but at the moment nobody knows what system will replace Google Reader. There are many rumours and promises around, so I’m actually going to sit tight and watch what happens over the next couple of months. I am reassured by tweets like these coming from the developers:
That of course doesn’t mean that I won’t be making alternative plans in the background, just in case. Development cycles can be long, and there are no guarantees the developers will be able to get their apps updated and released to the app store before July. So here’s what I’ll be doing as July gets closer:
Backing up my subscriptions from Google Reader
Google provide a tool which enables you with just a couple of clicks to download a zip file which contains information you have stored in Reader, most importantly any articles you have starred and all your subscriptions (including folder structure). The starred articles can be imported into Pinboard or other online bookmarking tools whilst your subscriptions can be imported into many other RSS readers. I’ll be sure to get a backup of all my Reader data before the service shuts down
Find and test Google Reader alternatives
Already articles are appearing all over the Internet with lists of alternative services to Google Reader. In addition developers are falling over each other to claim that they’re going to release a replacement for Google Reader. Due to my rather picky requirement for folder structure many of the existing alternatives don’t suit me. I have managed to find a couple though that look promising.
Newsblur: A web-based RSS reader with Universal iOS client. On the face of it this looks like my best option – it allows a folder structure and the fact that it is available through web browser and my iOS devices means that my subscriptions will synchronise and I won’t end up reading duplicate articles. Whilst the iOS app is not as pretty as my current favourites it does seem functional at least. It has an import feature to transfer all your existing Google Reader subscriptions. There are two downsides to this service at the moment. Firstly a LOT of people are currently signing up resulting in the servers being very slow and unresponsive. Secondly whilst free accounts are available, they are limited in the number of feeds you can subscribe too, so if you read many blogs like me you’ll have to pay $12 per year for the service. If you want to try newsblur out the following might prove useful:
Feedly: Another service that a lot of people are talking about at the moment is Feedly. This is a free RSS reader available for both iOS and Android and as a web browser plug-in. On iOS this app is very visually appealing, but whilst it does support folders for organising your subscriptions the display of posts within each folder is less configurable, and it seems to present each article in a disorganised fashion. Whilst this probably suits the Flipboard lovers, it’s not something I like – I prefer an at-a-glance list of all the blogs within each folder so that I can select individual posts from there (did I mention I was ever-so-slightly OCD about this?). That said, the developers have already published a list of tips for Google Reader users migrating to Feedly which might address my desire for a simpler layout, and they have confirmed via Twitter that they will be offering a seamless transition to Google Reader users, so maybe I need to spend a bit more time learning to love this one…
The advantage of Feedly is that I can try it no with no commitment – it will initially synchronise with my Google Reader account and then switch to an alternative sync method before Reader dies.
Those are the two alternatives that I’m considering at the moment, but a lot could change in the next few months and in my heart of hearts I’m hoping that my current apps will find a way to continue. It’s going to be interesting to watch, and I’ll let you know if I find anything else of interest along the way.
For those of you who are a little less demanding of your reader than me, I’ve found a couple of good articles today outlining a wider selection of alternatives, so check out the information from my friends at the Tots100 blog, and also on this article from mylocalbusinessonline.co.uk.
Can we stop it?
Probably not. But if you’re upset about Google’s decision to shut down Reader you could sign this online petition asking them to reconsider their decision. At the time of writing it’s less than 24 hours after Google’s announcement and it has already gained over 77,000 signatures. I don’t know if it’ll change anything, but it’s a good way of showing Google how many people would like to keep Reader alive.
This blog post is also available in enhanced audio format – you can listen in the player below, or, if it’s not available, click on this link to listen on the Audioboo website.