Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Google Reader alternatives: Comparing Newsblur & Feedly

A couple of weeks have passed since Google dropped a bombshell and announced that Google Reader is to be retired. Since then, I’ve been partly hoping for Google to change its mind – which doesn’t seem to be on the cards – and looking into alternatives. The key features that I’ve been looking for in a Google Reader replacement have been:

  1. A web-based interface
  2. An iOS app
  3. Synchronisation of read/unread items between all clients

The two alternatives that I’ve ended up paying the most attention to have been Newsblur and Feedly, and so I’m going to quickly review them both based on a couple of weeks’ usage.

Newsblur

Screenshot of Newsblur, a Google Reader alternative

In the immediate aftermath of Google’s announcement, Newsblur took a massive hammering – it was often unreachable or kept throwing errors. It’s settled down now so that it’s usable, so I’ve had a chance to use it properly.

Newsblur certainly has a lot of features, especially for misbehaving sites where the RSS feeds no longer work. And I’m sure it’ll be awesome for power users. But, for people like me… not so much. The interface is quite cluttered and I can’t see myself using many of the extra features. I’ve also tried the ‘preview’ of the next version, available to paying customers (I paid $12 for a year’s premium membership) but it’s not much better.

There is an iOS app which does the basics, but it doesn’t really work offline. This is a problem for me as I often read my feeds on trains, and don’t always have a mobile signal – damn those Victorian engineers and their tunnels.

So, on the whole, I’m not so keen on Newsblur.

Feedly

Screenshot of Feedly, a Google Reader alternative

Feedly is somewhat better, in my opinion. It’s got quite a clean interface, although it defaults to a magazine-style view for each category initially. At first I really didn’t like the web interface, which actually works through a browser extension in Firefox, Chrome and Safari (sorry Internet Explorer and Opera users). You can customise the colours and the way articles are displayed, though.

Today, however, Feedly updated the extensions and it’s now a much more pleasant experience. It still uses Google Reader as a back-end, for now, which means that all of your subscriptions and unread items are synchronised. When Google Reader is switched off, Feedly will switch to its own system, but in the meantime this means the transition is quite easy.

The iOS app is reasonable. It’s attractive, although I imagine it’ll be better on an iPad than my iPhone. Items do seem to be cached for offline reading which is nice, but I did find it a bit slow compared to Reeder, which is what I currently use for Google Reader.

The Old Reader

As a bonus I’ll mention The Old Reader, which is another popular Google Reader alternative, however there’s no mobile apps at present which rules it out.

Other Google Reader Alternatives

I’ve only mentioned three here but there are others – Lifehacker and Mashable have good lists. I’ll probably stick with Feedly although I am hoping that Reeder will work with Feedly in future. Future versions of Reeder will also support Feedbin (a $2/month service) and Reeder’s author is apparently open to other services.

You can also read what my friend Les says on his search for alternatives, although he’s less happy with Feedly than I am.

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