I follow a lot of blogs. I imagine that most people follow a lot of blogs. There are various ways to follow them and I’m sure I don’t know most. But my favorite way to follow is via RSS. If you don’t know RSS, this Wikipedia article will give you a good overview.But saying you follow via RSS is only half the story because to get the value of it, you need some software to aggregate the RSS from all the sites and keep track of what you’ve read and have not read. One of the most popular aggregators is Google Reader. It aggregates your subscriptions. It keeps track of articles read or unread. You can organize feeds into folders and it keeps track of favorite (starred) articles.
While Google Reader is a great service, it’s presentation is hideous, IMO. Here’s what it looks like…
Since I don’t enjoy the experience in Google Reader itself, I use another client software that syncs with Google Reader. There are many such news readers, but I’ve used Flipboard for years on the iPhone and iPad. I’ve never been perfectly happy with it, but it does present articles in a visually pleasing format. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that Google will shutdown Reader on July 1 this year. I have no idea how Google measures the success of all of its various offerings, but apparantly Reader was not measuring up and must be axed. Since the announcement a few months ago, there has been a scramble for a replacement. Many of those news readers on the market depended a great deal on Reader and pulling that rug out from under them could mean their demise. I’ve been standing back and watching the show for a while. To be honest, I figured some silver-bullet solution would be announced or I figured Flipboard would bring out their own aggregation service. I hasn’t happened yet. But with the deadline so close, I thought I’d better get serious about a replacement.
The most referenced direct replacements seems to be Feedbin, FeedHQ and Newsblur. After a bit of browsing, Feedbin looked like the best of the lot. It has a three-day trial period and it has monthly subscription option ($2) so the initial investment is low. There are several iOS clients available for it, one of which gets very high reviews. And, finally, it seems to have the most pleasing native interface of the three.
Signing up was easy and importing all of my subscriptions from Google Reader was relatively straightforward. The first chink in the armor is finding out that it doesn’t work with a combination of Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9. In fact, there are several combinations of Windows and IE that seems to be incompatible. It’s really shocking that it doesn’t work on the biggest platform on the planet.
However, on iPad/Safari, it is really nice. To be honest, it rivals the experience of Flipboard, although the concepts are completely different. Here’s what it looks like on iPad/Safari…
Feedbin does not have folders, but it uses tags to the same effect. The left pane lists your tags and feeds. The middle pane displays the articles from the selected tag or feed. And the right pane displays the content. For those blogs that publish only a teaser in the RSS XML, you can click on the title to launch into a browser.
The experience on iPhone is different given the limited real estate…
The right pane serves triple duty as feeds list, articles list, and content. The icons on the leftmost verticle allow you to move back “up” in the hierarchy.
This is a web application. When you type the URL for Feedbin into the address bar in Safari, it appears as does any other website. However, when you choose ‘Add to Home Screen’, it saves the bookmark with a nice icon (most websites appear as a small snapshot of the page you’re on) and when you open it from the home screen, none of the Safari chrome appears around it. As you can see from the snapshots above, it appears very much as a native app at that point. Very cool.
I’m pretty happy with the experience, especially on the iPad. Therefore, I don’t feel such a great need to find a client app. There are current three apps in Apples App Store that list Feedbin support: Readlines for Feedbin (which looks horrible), Slow Feeds, and Favs. Of those three, Slow Feeds look best at this time. But, as I said, I’m in no rush so plenty of time to research and wait on a $.99 sale (or better) before jumping in.
I’ll report back once I have more experience under my belt.