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Bye-bye, Google Reader: Alternative RSS solutions for Mac and iOS users

Lex Friedman | June 28, 2013
After July 1, 2013, Google Reader is no more. Lex Friedman tried many alternatives to figure out the best way to satisfy his news reading desire with his Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

AOL Reader actually feels a bit more polished than Digg's take today. You can toggle across a variety of views: List, Card, Full, and Pane, the last of which is exceedingly NetNewsWire-esque. There are no iOS apps involved yet, but AOL Reader works acceptably—with occasionally too-small tapping targets—in Safari on those devices. Keyboard navigation is again Google Reader-ish, with a sad lack of arrow key control. If there's a way to move from articles back to the source list using the keyboard, I haven't found it.

Still, while it's lovely that big companies like AOL and Digg are interested in filling the RSS void, remember my concerns from the outset: They're offering these new services for free, just like Google did. You don't want to get hooked on either service and have it follow Google Reader all the way into the Internet graveyard.

Whether AOL or Digg Reader will prove viable in the long-term depends on a lot of factors. Digg's involvement probably makes a little more sense than AOL's; the analytics the company can gather (and potentially monetize) fit right in with the data it can gather from Instapaper and the main Digg website, all of which fall under the same parent company. But really, for either service to prove a hit, it will need to grow quickly, become a popular syncing option, and work reliably. None of those things is assured.

To its credit, Digg says it plans to start charging for some additional features, in a freemium model. Digg hasn't said yet what it will charge for, beyond stressing that the currently available feature set will remain free.

So what to do
Until Wednesday, my friend and colleague Dan Frakes had a monstrous Frankenstein-level plan, involving using NetNewsWire—sans sync—on his Mac, and Reeder for iOS on both his iPhone and iPad, with Feedbin as the backend. (Neither the iPad nor Mac versions of Reeder have been updated to support Feedbin. And, personally, the Mac version of Reeder isn't for me; I cling to NetNewsWire's tabs.)

On Wednesday, a significant update to Mr. Reader added support for many services, so now Dan can run a native iPad app to sync with Feedbin and stick with Reeder on his iPhone. He still plans to use NetNewsWire without sync on his Mac, but that seems less than ideal to me.

So I'm going to follow partway in his footsteps. Feedbin has become my favorite option behind the scenes, and today—with a heavy heart—I removed NetNewsWire from my Dock and my Login Items. In its place is a Fluid app pointing to Feedbin, complete with an unread items count badge. My plan is to rely on the Fluid app until someone makes a great Mac app with a Feedbin backend. And like Dan, I'll use Reeder on the iPhone, and Mr. Reader on the iPad, all of which will remain in sync thanks to Feedbin.

I'll miss Google Reader's backend, and I'll miss NetNewsWire. But at least I won't miss the news.

 

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