Google Reader mass exodus PSA

Google Reader's crippling and accretion into the G+ hivemind has been the whiny topic of choice on my friends' feeds for the last few days. Google Reader was always terrible, so now that they've fucked you again, might I recommend using a real feed reader?

On the desktop, I like NetNewsWire, and on iPad and iPhone, I like Reeder.

(There's also a mobile version of NNW and a desktop version of Reeder, but those are not as good.)

Both of them can sync to Google Reader on the back end (basically just using it as cloud storage for the "marked-as-read" flag on your feeds) which makes it easy to switch back and forth between your desktop and your phone, or even between feed readers, without having to re-read things you've already seen. (Also -- bonus! -- that lets Google continue to monetize your reading habits.)

Previously, previously.

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50 Responses:

  1. There are worries that since the sync api isn't public (read: supported) that it could be yanked. Jason Scott just switched to NEWSBLUR and I'm giving it a shot. It's neat. It has an iOS & Android app (both free). It has one-click import from GReader. It's not as social right now, but those features are said to be in development. So far, I'm pretty happy with it.

  2. Nathan says:

    My whining comes from the loss of features, which those products don't replace. GReader offered Just Enough Social, and G+ is Far Too Much Social. Sharing on GReader is like presenting a book to a book club. G+ is like writing a book review on a blog.

    That Google don't get the distinction between these two activities means to me either that Google still don't get social or they just don't care about my use case. I could easily believe either one.

  3. What about Netvibes? It also have some social features, and has a nice river of news view for your feeds.

  4. Lloyd says:

    What about Picasa's incorporation into G+? used to be sharing uploaded images was easy - just give the email address, they get keyed access via email notification. Now, they need to be G+ members, and heaven help them if they're logged into google services as someone else.

    In other news, there's buzz that Google Buzz is dead. Yay!

  5. Ian Young says:

    Google is the new Microsoft: "We own the platform: eat a bowlful of dicks."

    Is there some kind of PHP rss reader I can just plop on my site and have done with?

  6. Otto says:

    I like the new Google Reader a lot more, actually. They got rid of all the social and sharing cruft that I never needed nor wanted in the first place (and also which never actually worked properly to begin with for Apps accounts).

    This sharing stuff is what most people are complaining about losing, in fact, and switching to a desktop reader wouldn't really replace that.

    • Well yes, except that the new Reader is also slower, uglier and buggier. Little things, like actually updating your read article count, appear to be consistently broken.

      • Little things, like actually updating your read article count, appear to be consistently broken.

        But are they consistently brokener than before? The unread count has never worked properly for me.

      • Otto says:

        I've never even seen a "read article count". Didn't know it was even in there.

        I just use it to read feeds. You know, like a "feed reader" of some kind. It works pretty well for that.

    • tzaba says:

      They also got rid of the ability to, you know, read, in Google Reader. The area that is available to read content is ridiculously small and you can't (well, I can't... it might be a PEBCAK problem) get rid of all of the wasted space to exand where the feeds are.

      @jwz - I like the new lines on the left margin to follow threads. Or, is it not new and I just haven't noticed?

      • Otto says:

        Uhh, wut? Looks like they actually expanded the reading area to me. The left hand sidebar is a tad bit narrower due to the smaller font. Seems more compressed.

        Now, to be fair, I have a 1600 pixel wide screen, but the left hand bar takes up only maybe 250 of that. The reading area is, well, everything to the right of that.

        Admittedly, they do wrap long lines pretty small for some reason. Say, 600 pixels or so wide. That could be better, but I understand the reasoning. Long lines often lead to the wall-of-text problem, though I think they could be smarter and detect that instead of applying it across the board.

        There's some other CSS issues, like the top bar of each post seems to be pushed off to the right too far.

        • tzaba says:

          I was referring more to the wasted space in height. When you combine the ridiculous amount of height unavailable to read with the left hand bar, the amount of space to read feeds is tiny. I like John Bloom's idea of hitting f for full-screen. That hint may actually keep me using Google Reader.

          • Curtis says:

            After a few minutes in Firebug I came up with this for my userContent.js file (Firefox):

            @-moz-document url-prefix( {
            #top-bar {
            display: none;
            #viewer-header-container {
            display: none;

      • jwz says:

        Thanks. I added those lines and tightened up the thread indentation a few weeks ago.

      • John Bloom says:

        Hit 'f' for 'fullscreen.' It just leaves a bit at the top to tell you what feed you're reading. Also, you can use j and k for next and previous article. I tend not to even use the mouse in google reader except for clicking on links.

    • John Fiala says:

      Ah, yeah. I don't want to be annoying or anything, but I rather like the new look, and I never used the old social stuff. And I know I've got more space to read things, because webcomics that I used to have to scroll to the right to read the end of now show up complete.

      It's cool to hear about other options for readers, but for myself Google Reader's gotten better for me.

      (Of course, I'm some kind of hermit, I think.)

      • If they had gone a good job with the monochrome color scheme, I would agree with you. As it is, the feed name, title and preview all blend together on a single line. It's also hard to tell where one line ends and the next begins, there are no visual cues to separate the lines of text.

        Then again, I'm also someone who likes to read webpages with text zoomed into 120%. in the old layout, this didn't cause any problem. In the new layout, everything is misaligned. shrug newsbeuter, here I come.

  7. Mark says:

    Anybody have any recommendations for a replacement web-based feed reader that supports some form of sharing? (Simply publishing an rss feed of items I've shared would be great). My standards are low: Unlike jwz, I wasn't even aware that google reader sucked in any way.

    • jwz says:

      What's wrong with the form of sharing known as "post it to your blog or twitter"? Why re-invent that again?

      • Doug Orleans says:

        Google Reader had a single "share" button that did that automatically (or a "share with note" button where you could easily modify the snippet and add a note). There seems to be a lot more friction in the process of posting to other blogs (though I'm eyeing Tumblr at the moment).

      • Mark says:

        I don't have or particularly want to have a blog or a twitter account, and even if I did, I wouldn't want "copy & paste" to enter my Mindless Link Propagation workflow. If NNW has one-click publish-to-twitter, I might give it (and twitter) a try.

        I had a small group of friends on google reader, from whom I would frequently find Items of Interest via their shared items. Few of them have active blogs, and I suspect I will simply stop receiving Items of Interest from them altogether.

      • Doug Orleans says:

        Also, it was nice that comments for someone's shared item were on the same page as the item itself, rather than having to go visit an external blog site to read & post comments. It was like this when everyone used LiveJournal too, and they even had something similar with syndication of feeds into LJ, but that had its own problems.

        • Elusis says:

          I still consistently read feeds via my LJ friends page.

          (Then again, I also still own a VCR, but I justify that due to the amount of material I own or get from university libraries that is still on VHS.)

      • ax0n says:

        posting it to your facetwat puts the link in everyone else's "stream" which is basically an ephemeral mist of mostly banal and trite content which can be ignored for a while and looked at when one has time, for "what's happening right now" kind of stuff. Reader's UI sucked, but what it did with sharing is gave me a solid e-mail-esque queue of interesting stuff my "friends" found. They did a good job of finding the very few gems on high-volume websites like BoingBoing and CNN, which themselves have ridiculous shit-to-signal ratios. So I unsubscribed from all the mainstream feeds, and held on to most of the smaller, more entertaining feeds (like this one). Not that I'm MISSING the few LifeHacker or failblog posts my friends would have shared today, but it's throwing a wrench in how I usually read content. CHANGE BAD!

        Your "blog it" suggestion is what my "friends" and I are doing. We'll just send interesting shit to tumblr or whatever, and import each others feeds to re-create what we lost. It's a lot of administrative overhead upfront, though.

      • phuzz says:

        I don't have a blog or twitter account*, so that really.
        Sharing via email does what I want, so that's all I need really.

        *(because I have nothing interesting enough to say to the world to justify having either).

      • theft says:

        Reader feeds included the full content of the original feed. This was the key. You could also use a single shared item from a friend to examine + subscribe to the original feed.

        How much effort do you put in to make sure that your blog posts have all the relevant content? It looks like you put in a lot. Sharing your posts meant I could steal all that effort. It was great.

    • laz says:

      tt-rss can "publish" articles per user, and serve them up via an rss feed (that others can subscribe to). I'm running it now, and it's alright.

  8. Joe Shelby says:

    oh good, so it isn't just me hating life in hating this new rendering. I've never seen so much wasted whitespace in my life before, nevermind throwing 6 different fonts in my face even before the content from the feeds loads...

  9. Glenn says:

    I don't care about G+. (G+ doesn't care about me, because Google doesn't care about Apps users.)

    I care that they've suddenly made Reader look like a college kid's first weekend PHP hack. Whoever's been doing these "redesigns" at Google doesn't understand basic framing; it's just a bunch of text sprinkled around the page at random, with no separators anywhere to focus the eye.

    Google used to be able to design solid UIs. At some point in the last year or two, they lost that skill completely.

  10. MattyJ says:

    I found out years ago that nobody gives a shit what I like. They don't give a shit about what you like, either. Anything I share is immediately ignored without prejudice and so is everything you share, so get over your overinflated sense of importance. Nobody is clamoring for Joe Internet's shared links.

    The only annoying thing about the redesign is the giant inter-line spacing on the feed lists. I feel like I'm reading a picture menu at Denny's. That's the real tragedy here, that mattyj is not satisfied. Everyone pay attention to me now.

    • theft says:

      I agree about you + me, but I totally disagree about the ~40 people I followed on Google Reader. Their shared items were infrequent and usually miraculous. Now they're gone forever, lost in the never-ending sea of shit on Facebook and G+.

  11. Samuel says:

    Personally, I like on macs. It seems to handle large databases better.

  12. As a NNW (when on Mac) and FeedDemon (Windows) user, I just hope Google doesn't screw synchronization altogether...

  13. Colin says:

    Personally I really liked the sharing that was part of Google Reader. It was simple easy to use (one keyboard key was all it took to share) and since it was specific to Reader RSS feeds it was content oriented rather than lost in the jumble of random other social crap. My friends on Reader made the best filters ever.

    None of the other RSS apps have a similarly useful targeted social component. I have hopes for Hivemined but we'll see how well it turns out.

  14. Edouard says:

    Hmmm, doesn't seem that bad. But on the other hand I so rarely use it directly, what would I know.

    On iOS devices I recommend MobileRSS - - probably no better or worse than Reeder, or the other top ones, but I've been very happy with it.

    Nice improvement in the site theme BTW. Me likey.

  15. Eric Will says:

    I don't feel like I need a separate app to read RSS feeds on the desktop. Usually the app just gets in the way. I almost never open the full site, and just read the RSS feed itself, except for sites that have "jumps" that make you go to them for ad views.

    I use multiple machines all day, so the only real sane way to always have access to my feeds is the Google Reader web app, which I don't really have a problem with. I'm not Google's biggest fan, but I don't give a shit about Google+ and fake names and oh my god etc. So I always have the web app, and I always have Reeder on my phone.

    I don't understand how you can call this a "mass exodus from Google Reader" and then list a bunch of "alternatives" that all use Google Reader to sync. You think not using the web app is an exodus? Like that impacts Google at all?

    If you really want to leave Google Reader, then find an app that has its own "cloud storage" - maybe something using iCloud will come along soon.

    • jwz says:

      Great, you like Google Reader, and don't like RSS apps. Everyone, including me, is fascinated by this fact.

      What's your problem? I saw a bunch of my friends complaining, and suggested the alternatives that I use.

      Apparently this offended you? Feel free to go fuck yourself.

      • Eric Will says:

        I don't have a problem. In fact, I've been reading your blog for years and you were a role model of mine when I was a young programmer.

        I was merely pointing out the irony in telling people that want to boycott Google Reader to use a bunch of native apps that sync to Google Reader.

        I don't particularly care for Google Reader. I've never found a desktop client I liked (except maybe Safari, but there's no way to sync there, that I know of), but I love Reeder on iOS. I'm kind of hoping maybe Reeder will get iCloud integration and then I can store my feeds in a real cloud that has nothing to do with Google and find another solution for desktop.

        I'm sorry if I came off as pissy or offensive, that was not my intention. I was just tossing in my two cents.

        • jwz says:

          If you don't want to sync to Google Reader, then don't fucking configure it to sync to Google Reader. Not a single shit is given over here, I can promise you.

          Next time you feel the need to "point out the irony" of something you should probably stop and reconsider that not everyone chooses to live their life like this man.


          • Eric Will says:

            I actually thought the Stallman stuff was hilarious. I think RMS is a huge retard, but it's pretty obvious by the way you needlessly attack people for sharing their opinions here. I was as nice as could be, pointed out something I found funny, and even complimented you, and yet all I get in response is basically "I don't care what you think, and neither does anyone else." So why do you have comments enabled then?

            Don't be a dick.

            • jwz says:

              I will try to be more clear, then. Any time someone's response could be characterized as "pointing out the irony", it's a near certainty that it was obvious, point-missing, trolling, or all of the above.

              I posted alternatives to a tool whose UI has apparently ceased satisfying a lot of people, and you tried to score conversational points by interpreting it through the lens of some imagined black-and-white crusade.

              That's stupid.

              • Eric Will says:

                I'm sorry, I didn't realize I did that. I'm still not quite sure what that even means, but okay, my bad. From now on I shall not post a comment here unless it answers some question in the "lazy web" category. I will be certain to not share my personal opinions or attempt to be humorous in the future. Because it's not like you yourself have that same writing style. But hey, it's not you, it's me.

                Can we still be friends?

              • Eric Will says:

                By the way, for some reason the link to my name ("Eric Will says:") is broken. It like, concatenates both sites I have listed on my Facebook profile. I hate Facebook, but I didn't feel like signing up for an account here. Figured you'd like to know.

  16. gryazi says:

    If I may parasitize the lazyweb here, someone pitch me whatever will make RSS most comfortable for "I'm bored give me something to read" on my replicantphone (Android).

    For some reason I've just never found a use-case for lots of truncated headlines on the desktop.

  17. Mitch says:

    I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader back when bloglines was going under. They were saved (if you can call it that) and the service lives on. I'm definitely going to take a peek at how their web based reader has evolved.

    I second that TinyTinyRSS is pretty good, especially if you liked how Google Reader looked/performed before the change, sans the social aspects of course.