Three good Google Reader replacements (Review)

Google Reader, the most popular RSS news reader of all time, is now dead as a doornail. Here are three good alternatives.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It's been nice knowing you, Google Reader. Google has pulled your plug, and the most popular really simple syndication (RSS) news reader of all is now dead as a doornail.

We've known this has been coming for months, but people being people, many of you still haven't switched to another RSS reader. Here's my list of three good replacements.

Before jumping into them, you should know what I think is important in an RSS reader.

First, I prefer my newsfeed to be delivered via a Web site rather than by an application. That way I don't have to worry about whether my RSS reader app on Android is synced up with the one on my Linux box and so on.

Gallery: Goodbye Google Reader: Here are five RSS alternatives

This also means that I won't need to worry about whether a program is supported on every device I use. If it's on the Web, it will work no matter whether I'm working at my PC, fiddling with my smartphone in a grocery store line, or browsing the Web on a couch with my Nexus 7 tablet.

Second, I want to be able to import and export my RSS feeds from one program to another. The last thing I want to do is to waste time manually moving my news feeds. Ideally, a good RSS reader can do this by importing and exporting Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) files.

The program should also make it easy to share what I find with my friends and co-workers via e-mail and on social networks. Finally, since Google Reader was free, I'd prefer for its replacement to be free as well.

That said, before trying a new RSS reader, you should grab your existing RSS newsfeed subscriptions from Google Reader.

To do this, go to Google Takeout. This is a handy service that lets you download all your data from various Google services, such as Google+, YouTube, and, for now, Google Reader.

Google is giving you until 12PM PST July 15, 2013 to grab your Reader data. After that, your "subscription data will be permanently, and irrevocably deleted."

So click on this Google Reader Takeout link and Google will start gathering your links. Once it's done, hit the Create Archive button and download the resulting zip file. Inside this zip file, you'll find a directory labeled Reade. Within it, you'll find several JavaScript files and an OPML file, subscriptions.xml. The latter file has the minimum data you'll need to port your RSS feeds to another reader.  

Even if your RSS reader can import your Google Reader RSS feeds directly, it can't hurt to use Google Takeout to download a copy of them.

With all that out of the way, I have to say I have yet to find the perfect RSS reader. What I have found are several good ones. Here, in alphabetical order, are the best RSS readers I've found so far.

1) Bloglines/Netvibes

Bloglines just turned ten-years old and is probably the oldest RSS reader still alive and kicking. Despite its age, it's still a useful, free, Web-based RSS client.

Bloglines, aka NetVibes, is an old RSS reader that has learned some new social networking tricks over the years.

It isn't just a RSS reader anymore. It's also a front-end for social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you want features such as in-feed search, you'll need to pay for the premium version. That will cost you — and, no, I'm not making this up — $499 a month...

Yes, that version also comes with many other features, but really all I want that's "extra" is the news-feed search. It's a pity they don't include that feature in their 30 Euros-a-year Netvibes VIP package.

Bloglines doesn't provide an automatic tool for importing RSS feeds from Google Reader. But, if you've made a Google Reader archive, it's easy enough to import your feeds to Bloglines.

Still, the overall look and feel of Bloglines can be set to look a lot like Google Reader. Or, if you prefer, you can set it to a widget-style appearance a la iGoogle. So, if you're going to do almost all your RSS reading from your PC, then Bloglines is still a worthy choice.

2) Feedly

Feedly has a lot going for it. It's free, and you can use it from a Web page or with Android and iOS apps. The program also includes a one-button migration tool for Google Reader users and detailed updates on what's what with the service as it moves from the Google Reader back-end to its own cloud-based RSS feed database management system.

Feedly is one handy RSS reader. Now, if only it supported search!

As they themselves say, "The entire team has been working close to 24×7 over the last 60 days to prepare for this migration. We are listening and happy to help make this transition as seamless as possible."

For example, Feedly used to require extensions to work and wouldn't work at all with Internet Explorer or Opera. In mid-June, Feedly started supporting all modern browsers. I'm also pleased to report that just today, July 1st, Feedly added an OPML export feature.

While there are still quirks, I'm finding that Feedly works remarkably well. Still, I'm not crazy about the interface and I really, really miss the ability to search within my feeds.

3) The Old Reader

The Old Reader makes no bones about it. They liked Google Reader. A lot. So, "Let's just say we missed the original reader a lot, so we built The Old Reader for ourselves and our friends. We like the way it turned out, so we are sharing it with everyone."

There's a lot to like about The Old Reader, but I do wish it made it easier to share links over social networks and e-mail.

I'm glad they did.

This Web-based, free RSS reader has a very clean, Google Reader-like display. It also has one small feature I quite like: a front page notification of dead RSS feeds. If, like me, you can have hundreds of RSS feeds, it can be quite hard weeding out the defunct ones. And, best of all, it has a search function that works across all the feeds.

Like the other programs, you can also easily upload your Google Reader OPML feeds to the program

Alas, there's still some functionality that's missing. Old Reader doesn't support story sharing either by social network or by e-mail. You can share and like posts with other Old Readers users, but that's it.

This is also a beta program. It's worked well for me, but you can expect it to have teething problems.

All the news fit to read

There are other good choices as well. ZDNet's James Kendrick likes Newsblur and Eileen Brown has kind things to say about the new Rolio service.

There are also some services, such as HootSuite's Hoodlet and the Digg Reader that just aren't ready for prime-time yet. They may be great sometime soon, but they're not there yet.

That being said, there's no clear winner or loser here. The RSS companies are improving their programs and adding new features daily. Even if I were to declare a victor today, it might be a runner-up tomorrow.

I'm going to continue my hunt for the perfect RSS reader. Let me know if you find your A+ RSS reader.

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