I woke up this morning, grabbed my iPhone to check the news in Reeder — which is powered by my Google Reader account — only to find at the very top that Google is shutting down Google Reader, for good, on July 1, 2013. They said it’s because too few people use it, which is rather ironic since most of us heard the news via articles synced in Google Reader.
Of course, it’s been a rumor for some time that Google Reader might be the next Google service to hit the chopping block, but it’s not just a rumor this time. Rather, is the first thing the Google Reader team has posted on their blog since 2011. That should, in itself, tell part of the story. And rather than beating around the bush about it being shut down, Google Reader will now warn you itself, rather starkly, that it’s going away. It’s really, really real this time.
That’s terrible news, since most RSS apps for desktops and phones are powered by Google Reader, and Google’s service was so popular that it practically pushed all alternatives out of the market. FeedDemon has already announced that it’s being killed as well, since it’s powered by Google Reader sync, even though years back it had its own sync engine. Google pushed most other RSS readers out of the market, and is now killing their own RSS reader app. It’s not a good day for RSS, a service that’s already been tough enough to convince people to use, and Google+ isn’t a good alternate unlike what Google apparently thinks according to a former Google Reader product manager.
So what do you do? Quit subscribing to RSS feeds? Nope. I sure won’t, and we sure hope all of our RSS subscribers here won’t, either. The good news is, there’s a ton of other great RSS services out there today, ones that have come online in the past few years or held on even though Google Reader remained dominant.Here’s all the info you’ll need to find a new service and get your feeds moved to it, pronto, before your Google Reader subscriptions are lost.
First Things First: Export Your Google Reader Subscriptions
The first thing you really should do, though, is export your Google Reader subscriptions so you’ll be able to import them into the next RSS reader app you use. Google’s done a fairly good job in recent years of letting you export your data from their services via Google Takeout, and Google Reader’s no exception. It’ll let you export the OPML file of your subscriptions, as well as json files of your starred and shared posts, and more. Just head over to https://www.google.com/takeout/#custom:reader, select Create Archive, then download the file when it’s finished (which oddly will require you to sign in a second time). Now, you can save that somewhere save, and extract the zip archive to get all of your export files.
The most important file in that archive will be the subscriptions.xml file, which is your OPML file with all of your subscriptions that you’ll want to import into your new RSS reader app. And, if you’ve organized everything into folders, they’ll be preserved in that file, too. The other files might not look as useful at first, but if you’ve starred articles you love over the years, you’ve likely resorted to your starred list from time to time to re-find an article. You can open the starred.json file in a text editor, but that’s not a very fun way to find what you need.
Use Pinboard to Save Your Starred and Shared Articles
If you already use Pinboard to save your bookmarks online, though, then you’re in luck, since Pinboard can import your Google Reader starred sites file directly. Just login to your account, head to the Import section in Settings, then select your starred.json file to import. Seconds later, your bookmarks will all be imported as links from Google, which gives you an easy way to see just your starred pages from Google Reader. You can do the same with your shared articles’ list to archive them to Pinboard.
There are other online bookmarking tools that can import, so you’ll have to check if your favorite service will import the .json exports from Google Reader. Or, just use Pinboard; it works great.
Now, Get a New RSS Reader App
Now, all you need to do is to get a new way to subscribe to RSS feeds, and move your Google Reader subscriptions over. There’s been a ton of talk online already of new services that’ll be coming out for RSS reading, but you need something today that works great and that isn’t likely to be shut down anytime soon. And if you’re a Google Reader user, you likely want something that works like Google Reader, something that’ll let you read all of your RSS feeds, and not just simply turn the most popular articles into a digital newspaper or something, like most new news apps these days do.
If you’re wanting more of a traditional RSS reader app — perhaps with new features, too, but mainly something that can directly replace Google Reader — here’s the apps you should consider, with some info about each one to help you decide. They’re all ones our team has really used this year, not just a random list of RSS apps that could possibly work, so you really should find the perfect app for you here.
One of the best — and most mentioned online today — new RSS reader apps is NewsBlur. It’s packed with features, letting you subscribe to all of your favorite sites and see their feed entries as an RSS feed, or in an Instapaper-like text view of the full article. Or, you can even browse through the stories in your RSS list right on the original site itself inside of NewsBlur. It’s then got the social features you want, and an algorithm to help surface the stuff you’ll find most interesting. Best of all, it’s a freemium service, so you can get started for free but then pay a dollar a month to help make sure it’ll keep being developed and won’t disappear overnight like Google Reader.
Price: Free for up to 64 site subscriptions; $1/month for premium account with unlimited subscriptions
Web.AppStorm Review: Intelligently Browse RSS Feeds With NewsBlur
If you always found Google Reader a bit too complex, and didn’t really want something that’d make you feel required to read every single article that came in, then Skimr might be the app you need. It gives you a list of your subscriptions, so you can read each site’s feed entries individually without an inbox showing how behind you are. It’s a really nice solution for RSS reading, and since it now lets you import your OPML file, it just might be the perfect app to move to if you’re looking to simplify things.
Web.AppStorm Review: Skimr: A Slick and Simple RSS Reader
With Google Reader getting shut down, you don’t feel like you can trust any online services. That’s definitely understandable. In that case, Fever might be the best option for you. It’s a self-hosted RSS reader app that you’ll run on your own server or hosting account, so it’ll be online as long as you keep your server running. And don’t get scared off by it being a self-hosted tool: it’s really simple to install, and will take little more than uploading 4 files via FTP, adding a MySQL database, and creating an account.
It’s not in the most active development right now, as Shaun Inman, its creator, has a number of projects he’s working on, but even still, it works great today, has gotten several minor updates in the past few months, and is what I personally just switched to today. I was amazed how easy it was to switch to, and only wish I’d followed our former editor Jarel’s lead to switch to Fever years back. It’s the more geeky option, but it’s sure a nice one.
Price: $30 one-time fee, plus your own hosting (essentially free if you have a shared hosting account or a VPS for your own site already)
Web.AppStorm Review + Setup Tutorial: Self-Hosted Temperature Based RSS Reader: Fever°
There’s something to say for the new, iPad-styled news reading apps: they look much more fun and inviting than the Google Reader inbox-style list of RSS feed entries. Problem is, most of them don’t show you all of your subscriptions, instead only showing you the most popular articles from a variety of sources. Feedly’s a nice mix of the two, letting you subscribe to topics or just follow your own RSS feeds, all in a nice, modern news app interface. Even better, they’re building a clone of the Google Reader API, so you can just sign in with your Google Reader account today and they’ll automatically get all of your subscriptions moved over.
Web.AppStorm Review: Feedly: The Customizable News Reader For the Web
I get it: you just want the old Google reader back. If so, then The Old Reader is a great new service you should definitely try out. It’s laid out much like Google Reader, with similar keyboard shortcuts and a built-in basic sharing network that’s reminiscent of the old sharing options in Google Reader before Google+ took over. It lets you sign in with your Google account, though oddly doesn’t automatically import your Google Reader subscriptions. But don’t worry: you can still import your OPML export file, though you might have to wait a bit as their servers look like they’re getting hit hard with new users right now.
Finally, Put RSS to Good Use
One final thing in closing. Most people never started using Google Reader, or any other RSS reader, because they found them too complex and got overwhelmed when they saw how many unread articles they had. Some of the apps I mentioned above, like Fever, give you ways around that, but for the most part, if you’re using a RSS app to subscribe directly to sites, you’ll have the same problem.
Here’s a few tips. First, don’t subscribe to too many sites. Just follow the ones you really, really want to read most things they say. Then, feel free to browse through the headlines. You don’t have to read every article in full, unless you want to. Finally, feel free to just clear out your inbox from time to time if you get overloaded. If it’s old, it likely doesn’t matter anyhow.
That’ll help you subscribe to the sites you love, and never miss updates like you would just by following the sites on Twitter or Facebook, but still should keep you from getting too overwhelmed with RSS. And if you’ve got any more questions, we’re here for you. Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll try to help out as you’re moving away from Google Reader, or trying out RSS reading for the first time.
- If you use Flipboard on your tablet or smartphone, you can sign in with your Google Reader account through Flipboard and they’ll import all of your RSS feeds and keep them synced even after Google Reader gets shut down. More info on their blog.
- Another self-hosted RSS reader app — this time, that’s free — is Tiny Tiny RSS. I haven’t actually tried it out, but it looks much like Google Reader used to.
- Another new online feed reader, more on the lines of Feedly, is Prismatic. They reached out to us on Twitter to let us know that their app also supports full RSS subscribing, as well as having interest-based topics to subscribe to. Looks like another interesting option to try out — again, one I haven’t tried yet.