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Goodbye Google Reader: Here are five RSS alternatives

Google may be closing down its Reader RSS services from 1 July, but that isn't the end of the RSS party. Here are four cloud-based alternatives and one desktop option all waiting to keep you in touch with the news.
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By Ben Woods, Senior reporter on
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1 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

When Google introduced its Reader RSS aggregator back in October 2005 it was a little rough around the edges, but following a redesign around a year later, users began to flock to the cloud-based RSS service.

However, with the company announcing this week that it would be killing off Reader in a matter of months, we thought we'd put together five alternative RSS aggregators for you to try out.

Surpassed to some extent by the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other socially-oriented sites, RSS still has strong support from users, although many services are now cloud rather than desktop-based.

Feedly

Feedly has been in the RSS reader market since 2008, but with Reader now out of the way we'd expect to see an influx of new users. It's also one of the easiest to switch to if you're migrating across from Google Reader.

"We have been working on a project called Normandy which is a Feedly clone of the Google Reader API - running on Google App Engine. When Google Reader shuts down, Feedly will seamlessly transition to the Normandy back end. So if you are a Google Reader user and using Feedly, you are covered: the transition will be seamless," the company said in an announcement on its site.

Like Reader, Feedly is cloud-based and freely available to use, but it looks less like Reader than some of the other alternatives on this list. Instead it has more of a blog or magazine layout look to it.

In order to use Feedly on the desktop, you'll need to install a Chrome, Firefox or Safari extension. It's also available for a number of other platforms including iOS, Android and on Kindles.

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2 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

NewsBlur

NewsBlur is the newest of the cloud-based RSS aggregators in this line-up but, like its rivals, is accessible from the web or an iPad, iPhone or Android-based device.

Like Reader it takes a traditional aggregator layout, but in addition to showing you your subscriptions and individual news items, it also lets you specify between 'original', 'feed', 'text' and 'story' to dictate what is displayed in the panel. The image above shows it with the 'Feed' option displayed.

Unlike most others, NewsBlur can also be trained to help you discover new feeds and filter the content you're interested in.

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3 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Netvibes

Netvibes' free RSS reader product is also another alternative to Reader worth checking out, and like Feedly has also been around since 2008.

Unlike Feedly there's no simple import route in Netvibes for integrating your Google Reader subscriptions. Instead, you need to export your Reader subscriptions as a .ZIP file, extract them to find the 'Subscriptions.xml' file and then import that into Netvibes.

On the positive side, once imported you have the option of having the content displayed like Reader in the traditional way (pictured) or as widgets across the screen, like the iGoogle homepage.

It is also available for the iPad, iPhone and on Android, and includes an offline reader mode.

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4 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Skimr

Skimr is the least like a traditional RSS feed of all the cloud-based options in this list. Rather than display content in a main panel with a list of subscriptions down the side of the page, Skimr presents the chosen 'skims' (an individual subscription) or a list of all skims (all subscriptions).

New sites can be added by URL, browsing Skimr's directory, or by uploading a previously exported OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) file.

It may be little surprise to learn that as Skimr looks more like a mobile-optimised site than a desktop site, there are no native apps for the service, but it will work happily in most mobile browsers.

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5 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

Readefine

Readefine is the only desktop RSS reader client on this list, and for good reason — put simply, most people prefer a cloud-based service they can access from anywhere.

However, there are still users that prefer to have their news delivered to their desktop, and for those people, Readefine might be worth considering.

Readefine's layout is a little different to most, choosing to display categories horizontally across the top of the screen and with a newspaper column style layout taking most of the page.

Clicking through to an individual article displays it in full screen, where you have the option to star it for later reading or share it through a variety of social networks or email.

Readefine is available to download for free on Windows, Mac or Linux.

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