Google is killing Reader as part of a spring cleaning ritual where products with little following are sacrificed:
We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.
Finding a Reader replacement is complicated by why Reader’s usage declined: those who used newsfeed readers to follow blogs and other web syndicated content now use “social media” like Facebook, Twitter, or even iTunes. A small minority even use Google Plus, Google’s most recent try at “social media”.
I’ve preferred to triangulate between open web formats like RSS and Atom (and HTML!) and proprietary software. Reader allowed that. You could use open web formats and use Google’s “free” service to consume them from anywhere. But as product development whims of 2005 gives way to the fashions of 2013, that option is gone. Reader’s loyal following must retrieve their data and go elsewhere.
Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.
Google Takeout lets you download “personal” data, either the data you gave Google or the data that Google took. The zipped Reader data you can download comes in two flavors: OPML and JSON. While JSON is of little use to anyone but developers, the OPML can be used to move Reader subscriptions to another newsfeed reader. Google unnecessarily complicates the transfer by exporting subscriptions in a subscriptions.xml file with an xml file extension. While OPML is a flavor of XML, it’s more useful to have a file extension specific to the XML flavor. So I renamed subscriptions.xml to subscriptions.opml. I recommend others do likewise.
Then I went looking for a replacement. Before I started using Google Reader around 2008, I used NewsFox, an extension to the Firefox web browser. However, as I shifted from Linux and Windows to MacOS X and Linux at that time, moving data from platform to platform and reinstalled browser to reinstalled browser became tedious. An online newsfeed reader was the most obvious solution and Reader was the most obvious online newsfeed reader.
Since I use MacOS X as my primary desktop application, whatever news reader I chose had to work on MacOS X. I didn’t want to use a
Internet sparkly cloud based reader. As Google’s bloody knife demonstrates, what the Internet sparkly cloud gives, the Internet sparkly cloud can take away. With the right Internet sparkly cloud data backup strategy (“scoot and shoot”), one piece of data can be encrypted, compressed, and saved to multiple free Internet sparkly cloud based storage providers like DropBox or Google Drive and shifted as those providers go under the knife in future rites of spring. Following this strategy, using a desktop or mobile newsfeed reader is much more convenient in 2013 than it was in 2008. Since I philosophically prefer FOSS to proprietary software, I went looking for a desktop FOSS newsfeed reader that ran on MacOS X.
Though Wikipedia has an adequate list of newsfeed readers laid out in helpful tables for comparison, only one of the two final candidates I found, RSSOwl, was listed on it. The other, Vienna RSS, I found as a recommended application while downloading RSSOwl from SourceForge.
Both RSSOwl and Vienna RSS imported my Reader newsfeed subscriptions from subscriptions.opml without a hitch. Both programs have worked smoothly so far.
I’ve used RSSOwl more than Vienna RSS. Since RSSOwl is written in Java and much of my daytodaytoolchain is Java software, RSSOwl will be easier to programmatically integrate with my other applications. It has Reader features like “starring” (or, in RSSOwl, “sticking”) selected posts for future reference. It has features Reader lacked like downloading full blog posts even when the post’s provider has truncated it so you have to click through to the website with your browser. But I continue to evaluate Vienna RSS.
Goodbye Google Reader. It took 30 minutes to replace you and I’m going back to my plow.