While working on this post about Google's fairly recent removal or scheduled-removal of free apps, there was the faint sound of Barry Commoner rumbling, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Commoner was speaking about our willy-nilly assault on our environment as if there were no consequences. The aphorism applies to Google and its plethora of free services: Gmail, Blogger, and iGoogle that this blogger has enjoyed forever (actually 10 years, the Web-equivalent of forever). So it is, that this blogger's desktop (iGoogle) will disappear on November 1, 2013. Will Gmail and Blogger be far behind? Today's post responds to Google's decision to end its Google Reader service this summer. There is no forever in Google's universe. If this is (fair & balanced) whining about the reality of the market, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
Google’s Aggregator Gives Way To An Heir
By David Pogue
Tag Cloud of the following article
(Click to embiggen)
Well, if we didn’t get it before, we get it now: Google giveth, and Google taketh away.
On July 1, it will take away Google Reader. To the dismay of millions, that service will go the way of Google Answers, Google Buzz, iGoogle and GOOG-411. Google hasn’t provided much in the way of a satisfying reason for this “spring cleaning,” saying only that “usage has declined.”
This column is intended to help two kinds of people: Those who used Google Reader, and those who never even knew what it is.
Google Reader is what’s called, somewhat geekily, a newsreader, or painfully geekily, an RSS aggregator.
It’s like an online newspaper you assemble yourself from Web pages all over the world. Instead of sitting down at your desk each morning and visiting each of your favorites sites in turn — say, NYtimes.com, Reddit.com and HuffingtonPost.com — you just open reader.google.com. There, you find a tidy list of all the new articles from all of those sources, organized like an e-mail Inbox. You skim the headlines, you read summaries, you click the ones that seem worth reading.
Occasionally, you can read the entire article without leaving the newsreader page; that’s up to whoever published the article. Usually, though, you see the headline of each item and a quick description of the article, or maybe the first few paragraphs and an accompanying picture.
One click takes you to the originating Web site. It’s all much faster and more efficient than wading through the ads, the blinking and the less interesting articles on the originating Web sites themselves.
There was a huge outcry when Google announced the imminent death of Reader — petitions, blogs, the works — but you might not immediately understand why. Google Reader is notoriously ugly. It’s fairly complicated and busy.
It is, however, complete, customizable and convenient. And once you’ve set up your preferred sources of reading material, they show up identically on every computer, tablet and phone. The masses may not have used Reader or even heard of it, but information devotees, news hounds and tech followers loved it.
They needn’t mourn. Google Reader has plenty of rivals and satisfying replacements. In fact, I fully intended to offer capsule reviews of each of them, until I realized that six presidential administrations would pass by the time I finished.
Newsreaders are available for every kind of phone, tablet and computer: Bloglines, NewsBlur, Pulse, Taptu, Reeder, FeedDemon, Spundge, Good Noows, HiveMined, Prismatic, Netvibes, NetNewsWire, ManagingNews and so on. Some are Web pages like Google Reader; others are stand-alone programs or apps. Some e-mail programs can subscribe to these feeds, too, dropping them right into your Inbox.
The one everybody keeps saying is the natural heir to Google Reader, though, is Feedly.com. In fact, Feedly says the ranks of its four million users have swelled to seven million since Google’s Reader death sentence was announced.
It requires a free plug-in for the Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers. Three factors in particular make it useful.
First, the biggie: Simply logging into Feedly with your Google name and password instantly re-creates your Google Reader setup. All of your news sources, favorites and tags — category names that you can apply to certain articles, for ease in rounding them up later — magically show up in Feedly, ready to use. The synchronization is two-way; until July 1, you can bounce between Reader and Feedly to your heart’s content, and your newsreader worlds will look identical.
(Behind the scenes, Feedly relies, believe it or not, on Google Reader’s feeds. But the company says it will seamlessly replace Google’s feeds with its own source by July 1.)
Second, Feedly is much nicer-looking than Google Reader. It does a better job with typography — Google does no job at all — the layout is more attractive, and it offers more views of your news.
For example, Feedly can display your feeds exactly the way Google does, in a text-only list; click something in the list to expand and read it right there in the list. But it can also display your articles in much more visual ways. There’s Magazine view (a list of descriptive blurbs, each with a small photo next to it); Cards view (photo and blurb appear on what looks like playing cards filling the screen); and Full Articles view (you don’t have to click to expand anything — each scrolling vertical block shows as much of the article as is available).
Ex-Googlers may start out with the text-only list (Titles view), because that’s what they’re used to. But they may eventually develop the courage to try one of the more visual, more interesting views.
Third, Feedly offers fantastic ways to subscribe to stuff. Way 1: As you surf along, whenever you find a Web site that looks good, you click the small, transparent Feedly button that appears in the lower-right corner of your Web browser — at least if you use Chrome or Firefox. Feedly says it’s working on bringing its button to Safari.
Way 2: When you’re on Feedly’s page, click the magnifying-glass icon to view a curated table of contents — a list of subscribe-worthy sites in categories like Tech, Business, News, Cooking, YouTube, Etsy and so on. Click what looks good.
Ways 3, 4, 5: Click that same icon and type, into the box at the top, a Web address, a Web site’s name or even a topic. Choose from the results Feedly presents.
As with Reader, Feedly offers all kinds of ways to manage your subscriptions. You can tag them, put them into folders by category or click a Save button that flags an article as something you want to revisit later.
When you’re reading an item you particularly like, a tidy row of buttons let you broadcast the link of your find to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or e-mail. Alas, Feedly doesn’t let you add Twitter and Facebook feeds to your news stream, too.
It’s all pretty great, especially when you consider the great-looking, fluid, free Feedly apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Frankly, for most people, Feedly is better than Google Reader.
Feedly knows, however, that it’s not perfect. For example, you can apply only one tag to each item (“Tech,” say), not multiple tags (“Tech” and “Ridiculous”). And you’ll never figure out how to remove a tag from your list — you have to go into Preferences — because Feedly doesn’t offer the usual shortcut menus that Google Reader does, where you can right-click anything to get a list of options like Delete and Rename.
The control bar that offers different views, like Magazine and Cards, doesn’t always appear.
You have to sign into Feedly with an existing Google account.
Finally — and here’s the big one — Feedly doesn’t work in Internet Explorer, which locks out a lot of potential customers. And in the browsers that do work, you have to install a tiny “bookmarklet” (a plug-in), which is against the rules at some corporations and public computers.
Feedly is feverishly working to address these limitations; it takes the mantle of Reader Successor seriously. Indeed, some of the best features have been added very recently, in an effort to accommodate Reader refugees. (If you’re among them, here are Feedly’s tips for an effortless transition: http://j.mp/10mkEb7.)
But in the meantime, Feedly is a lovely, easy-to-use service for two categories of people: those who once used Google Reader, and those who’ve never heard of it. Because if you’re still starting your morning with a zigzag through a standard set of Web sites, you’re wasting time and energy. Feedly is what you needly. Ω
[David Pogue is a personal technology columnist for the New York Times, an Emmy-winning tech correspondent for CBS News "Sunday Morning," and a columnist for Scientific American. He graduated from Yale University ,summa cum laude with Distinction in Music. Since November 2000, Pogue has served as the The New York Times personal-tech columnist; his column, "State of the Art," appears each Thursday on the front page of the Business section. He also writes "From the Desk of David Pogue," a tech-related opinion column that is sent to readers by e-mail. He also maintains a blog at nytimes.com called Pogue's Posts. In 2007 he received an Honorary Degree (DM Doctor of Music) from Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Virginia.]
Copyright © 2013 The New York Times Company
Since the Google Reader will go dark on July 1, 2013, another site is available tor readers of a lot of blogs (or a single blog). The alternative is Feedly. How does Feedly work? Read the NY Fishwrap's David Pogue's review of Feedly here.
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.
Copyright © 2013 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves