Benjamin Esham

The RSS apocalypse is upon us

Google is shutting down Google Reader at some point today. I’ve been using Reader for years as a backend for my RSS syncing — I didn’t use the Reader web app itself all that much, although it worked fine when I needed it. Until last month, I used Reeder on my iPhone and iPad and NetNewsWire 3 on my Mac. When it started to seem like Black Pixel wouldn’t have NetNewsWire 4 ready in time for the switchover, I switched to using Reeder on my Mac too. (NetNewsWire 3 worked fine up until today, but I figured that if I’d need to switch in the future then I might as well do it sooner rather than later.)

Following Lex Friedman’s example, I’ve settled (for now) on this combination of apps and services:

I’m not 100% happy with this setup, but it’s very serviceable.

I’d love to be able to use NetNewsWire 4, but at this point that would mean foregoing sync altogether, and that’s not worth it to me. I agree with Marco Arment that Black Pixel has made a serious error in not supporting at least one of the third-party sync services.1 I’ve tried NetNewsWire on my iPhone and I disliked it enough that if I had to use NetNewsWire on all or none of my devices, I’d choose none.

The reason I switched away from Reeder on my Mac and iPad is simply that those versions of Reeder don’t support Feedbin yet. So far, I like Mr. Reader just as much as Reeder on my iPad, although I’ll be glad when I can switch away from the Fluid-powered Feedbin app on the Mac.

I was hoping I’d be able to use Feed Wrangler as my backend. Two things held me back, both related to its Smart Streams feature. Feed Wrangler supports Smart Streams instead of folders; Smart Streams are to “normal” RSS-feed folders what iTunes’s Smart Playlists are to its normal playlists. You can use Smart Streams just like folders, but when I looked at Feed Wrangler there was no easy way to import your Google Reader folders as Smart Streams. (This has since been fixed.) An equally-large problem is that Reeder doesn’t yet support Smart Streams, which means that all of my feeds would end up in one giant unorganized pile. I’ll continue to keep an eye on Feed Wrangler.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the apps and services I’m using now — Feedbin, Reeder, and Mr. Reader — all cost money. One of the presumed reasons for Google’s shutting down Reader was that it cost much more than it brought in via ads. For a similar service to be sustainable, it has to be supported financially by its users. Paying $7 up front for apps and $2 each month for a syncing backend is next to nothing, and it makes me feel much better about those services’ futures.

  1. This may well have been the result of Black Pixel running out of time rather than making a strategic decision, although unfortunately there’s not much difference from where I’m sitting. ↩︎