When Google announced the death of Google Reader, it became clear just how much Google dominated the world of cloud-based RSS. Google’s product had become so ubiquitous for cloud RSS that no other companies really tried to make a competing product; instead they simply made different front-ends that connected to Google Reader’s API. With Reader now closing shop in just a few months, the scramble is on for who can gain all of the users Google is giving up.
Having a cloud back-end to sync feeds is really where the whole situation becomes tricky. At work, for example, I have a handful of RSS feeds that I like to follow which are related to my job. I only typically look at them when I’m at work on my work computer so in that case having a local RSS reader that runs solely off of my machine is fine, and Feed Demon does the job quite nicely. Things aren’t as simple with my personal RSS feeds, though. I want to be able to see those feeds on my desktop, my laptop, and my phone. I also don’t want them to be duplicated. When I read an article on my phone during my lunch break at work, I don’t want to see that same feed on my desktop once I get home. This is where a cloud back-end is needed to sync which articles I have read and which ones I haven’t.
In this regard, Feedly seems to be a clear choice for anyone looking to emulate the functionality of Google Reader with a clean, elegant design. On the desktop side, Feedly has browser plugins that support Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. It also has mobile apps for iOS and Android. I’ve spent most of my time using the Firefox plugin, which works well under both Windows and Linux. I am somewhat confused as to why exactly a plugin is needed for all of the web browsers rather than just using a web page, but I’m sure there is a reason for it. I have also been very impressed with the Android app, which runs great. It provides you with quite a few different options for your interface, and it all runs very smoothly on my Photon Q without much of an impact on my battery. What helps a lot is that it doesn’t seem to actually use any background data; the app will only refresh your articles when you launch it, which is exactly what I want.
Feedly has benefited hugely from Google’s announcement of Google Reader being killed off, and reportedly over 500,000 users moved to Feedly in just two days after the Google Reader announcement. As I signed up in the same period, I also recently received an email from Feedly linking to their blog post on tips for Google Reader users migrating to Feedly. The big question I had, though, is what Feedly was doing to cut Google Reader out of the equation. When you use Feedly at the moment, it does OAuth to your Google account and automatically pulls your data from Google Reader. It’s still using the Reader API at the time of this writing. For example, when I read an article on Feedly and then look at my Google Reader stats, it will tell me that I have read another article. Obviously this behavior won’t continue to function once Google sunsets Reader. I had some confusion regarding whether I had to make a first-party Feedly account somewhere since I’m only authenticating to the service via Google right now. Information like this has been somewhat difficult to track down in Feedly’s official posts, but luckily some folks in the comments of the Feedly blog I just linked to had the same questions:
I had known that Feedly was working on a Reader replacement back-end called Normandy, but I didn’t know how that was going to fit into the overall scheme of authenticating to and using the service once the cut-over happens. Apparently Feedly is planning to continue using OAuth with Google as their authentication mechanism and the only difference is that the RSS feeds being imported will be coming from their own Normandy servers rather than from Google’s Reader servers. Thus, just logging in prior to the July 1st cut-over should be all that’s needed to ensure that Normandy is able to import your feeds from Google Reader so that you continue to have uninterrupted service. If you’re scrambling for a Google Reader replacement, it’s really looking more and more like you can’t go wrong with Feedly.