Over the last few months I’ve been evaluating feed reading alternatives to the soon-to-be-dead Google Reader. Rather than try to review all of them, I’m just going to share the few that stood out for me. As I looked at each reader I was considering two potential kinds of users: power users like myself and educators who typically desire fewer features and increased usability.
For myself, a reader must either be web-based or able to serve as an endpoint for synchronizing feeds between devices (I do most of my reading on my MacBook, but I also read on my iPad and sometimes on my iPhone.
Winner (for power users): Fever
Fever is a paid, web-based reader the user installs on their own server. The setup was simple—before you can buy Fever you have to publish and run a small script to ensure your system is ready—with no monkeying around in the server control panel or command line.
Fever uses an interesting metaphor and system for identifying important posts: Sparks, Kindling and Hot folders. Kindling is the standard set of feeds and folders you are likely familiar with from Google Reader and others: the feeds you read directly. Sparks are “inessential” feeds, whose items don’t show in up in the main kindling view, but nonetheless are used to evaluate the relevance and importance of items…this is a great place to put those link blogs and other sites that post frequent links and headlines but that aren’t necessarily interesting to directly browse often (or ever). The Hot folder takes the content of the Sparks and Kindling feeds and locates the most interesting items based on multiple occurrences and possibly other factors.
In addition to the most common features, Fever imports and exports OPML, has extensive keyboard shortcuts, a search engine that searches post titles and bodies and simple sharing features for Facebook, Delicious, Instapaper and Twitter.
Winner (for non power-users): Feedly
Feedly is a hosted, web-based reader that utilizes a cloud service to synchronize feeds between browsers and the Feedly apps for iPhone and Android.
Feedly has been evolving by leaps and bounds. If Feedly provided:
- the ability to subscribe to authenticated feeds (secure feeds are rare for my purposes, but supporting Pocket feeds without having to make the list public is critical)
- a real “River of News” view of posts at the folder level (rather than just displaying each feed sequentially)
it would be in a dead-heat with Fever but for the independence of running a reader on one’s own server.
On the Horizon: Digg Reader
My guess about Digg Reader is based solely on other reviews since I haven’t yet gained access to it. That said, it seems to be moving quickly toward being an able Google Reader replacement and it seems worth keeping tabs on.
On the Horizon: Reeder
Reeder is the best desktop application for OS X. If desktop readers are your thing, I highly recommend Reeder. It has nice apps for iPhone and iPad (but not Android). The company is promising a cloud service for synchronizing feeds Real Soon Now…until it does, it can’t really compete with the web-based and synchronized applications…unless you are a single computer/device user.