While all of us will lose thanks to Google’s inexplicable decision last week to shut down a service which seems to have been much more popular than the search giant would have you believe, one company is certainly not unhappy about the move. Feedly has been in a whirlwind since that announcement.
Within hours of the Google announcement Feedly had already posted detailed instructions on how disenfranchised users could export their RSS feeds from Reader and import them into the Feedly service.
Now the company has announced that it has received an influx of more than 500,000 new users in the first 48 hours after the Google announcement. “More than 500,000 Google Reader users have joined the feedly community over the last 48 hours. We love passionate readers. Welcome on board”.
Feedly says it has added ten times its previous bandwidth to handle the load and that new servers are being brought online to help with the new found popularity. The company also plans on adding new features weekly.
Its nice to see a company that still understands the need that many of us have for a good RSS reader and wants to support the users of it, as opposed to simply ignoring its customers as Google has shown it is willing to do. Feedly is available for iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
While GNC doesn’t get political — in fact we avoid it as if it were toxic — sometimes a subject in the political arena touches the tech world. While we have all been fixated recently on the Google Reader shutdown and what it means to us as writers about tech, who use this tool to follow the latest news, and you the readers who use it to follow us, there is larger and much more ominous part to all of this.
That part was revealed today as we learned just how detrimental this shutdown is — not just to us in our cozy homes, but to those living under the thumb of totalitarian regimes that systematically block large portions of internet traffic.
Today Zachary M Seward reports that the Google decision has been taken especially hard by the citizens of Iran who used the RSS service to get around the country-wide firewall that trapped them from outside news. “The real tragedy is likely to be felt in countries like Iran, where Google Reader is used to evade government censorship”, Seward wrote. He continues “many RSS readers, including Google’s, serve as anti-censorship tools for people living under oppressive regimes”.
In order to stop citizens from accessing Google Reader, the country would have to undertake a rather large amount of work, as it is difficult to block the entire Mountain View-based company and all of its services.
There is potential good news here — “Google also hasn’t said what it might do with the Google Feed API, which is a service for programmers to access RSS feeds, usually for display on other websites. If it sticks around, the Google Feed API would potentially allow someone to build a service that replicates some of Google Reader’s core features and still rely on Google’s domain to do it” Seward explained.
For now Google has said nothing more about its decision, despite the growing outcry and the number of people signing online petitions to stop this shutdown from happening. Perhaps the plight of the Iranian citizens can warm their cold heart.
Those of you who are lamenting the upcoming loss of Google Reader are not alone – not by far. There are a lot of people right now who are seeking an alternative to replace it (with varying degrees of success, depending upon each person’s needs). Digg has a different way of solving this problem. They are going to build a new one.
Digg announced this news on their blog, in a post titled: “We’re Building a Reader”. It turns out that they had been planning on building their own version of an RSS reader anyway. The news about the demise of Google Reader caused them to push this project to the head of the line. Their blog said:
We’ve heard people say that RSS is a thing of the past, and perhaps in its current incarnation it is, but as daily (hourly) users of Google Reader, we’re convinced that it’s a product worth saving. So we’re going to give it our best shot. We’ve been planning to build a reader in the second half of 2013, one that, like Digg, makes the Internet a more approachable and digestible place. After Google’s announcement, we’re moving the project to the top of our priority list. We’re going to build a reader, starting today.
The “bad news” is that the RSS reader that Digg is designing isn’t ready for you to use right now. It’s still being created. However, the “good news” is that they are seeking input about what, exactly, you would like to see in their RSS reader. Leave them a comment on their blog, and there is potential that they will incorporate it. The other “good news” is that when they are finished, there will be another viable alternative to Google Reader.
I have tried a lot of news aggregators over the years, including Google Reader, Reeder, Shrook, NetNewsWire, NewsFire on the desktop. On iOs I have tried Zite, Pulse, Flipboard just to name a few. I keep trying new ones because I am never quite satisfied with the one I am using. One of the problems I have with most of them is they are based on sources. I have realized over time that I am interested in following ideas or concepts. Where they comes from is less important to me then the idea itself.
That is idea behind Prismatic, which is available on the desktop and now on the iPhone, (although it works fine on the iPad). When you first sign into Prismatic you are asked to connect either Facebook, Twitter or Google Reader account. It will then offer suggestions based on your interest and who you follow. Prismatic may suggest an actual site such as Lifehacker, but they may also suggest a subject such as beer or computer security. They may also suggest a person to follow. If you want to follow suggested subject you simply click on the plus sign and it is added to your home list. If you want to delete a subject from your home list just click on the X. To look at a subject you simply tap on it and it will bring up a brief summary view of that feed. You can swipe up and down the feed. When you find something you like, just tap on it and it will take you to a longer summary, tap on it again and it will take you to the original article. To go back either hit exit or the arrow. If you want to get back to your home screen from the summary screen just swipe to the left. Below the title of an article Prismatic will also suggest other topics that may interest you based on the article. Click on that interest and it will be added to your home feed. If you want to like or share an article you simply place a finger on it and then slide up to the appropriate icon. Right now sharing is limited to Facebook, Twitter and email. I am hoping they will add more options in the future.
The Prismatic UI could use a little work, it looks a little outdated and lacks the wow factor of Flipboard. I also wish I could save to Pocket and share to Google Plus. Despite this complaints, Prismatic both on the desktop and now on the iPhone offers a lot to be happy about. If you are interested in following an idea or subject rather than a source, then I recommend trying Prismatic.
I was talking to a friend early this morning about what I’d like to see in an RSS reader app. As a truck driver, I’ve got endless listening hours. I want an RSS reader app that can use text-to-speech and read articles to me in a non-stop fashion.
To my surprise, my friend told me that such an app already exists in the iTunes App Store. It’s called RSS Talk. It comes pre-populated with a variety of different mainstream RSS feeds, in addition to the ability to manually add feeds of the user’s choosing. RSS Talk sells for $1.99 and has very positive user comments. I immediately downloaded the app and gave it a try. It really does work as advertised! The female voice is very clear and natural. It does a great job of just reading the article and completely avoids reading non-article elements that most text-to-speech schemes end up reading such as formatting tags.
This is one of those rare apps that brings the best elements of hardware and software together in an easy-to-use app form. Once it is started playing there’s no need for human intervention. It makes the perfect reading companion, enabling me to listen to all of those RSS feed articles I’ve been subscribed to for years but rarely have time to actually read.
This app is a buy!
Since News.me no longer requires a subscription I decided to give it a try so I could compare it to Zite and FlipBoard . These types of news reader have become quite popular on the iPad. It similar in some ways to FlipBoard and Zite. All three of these apps present content like a magazine. All three are well made and look beautiful. You can flip easily through stories and from one story to another in each of them. However how they determine the stories that are available for you to read is one way they differ. FlipBoard provides various favorite categories from art to technology. Within each category there is a list of providers from blogs to magazines and newspapers, to add to your reading list. You can even add your own categories. You can also add Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader to your reading list. With Zite the choice when setting up is within categories and not providers. However when you read an article you can thumbs up or down a topic, provider and even an author that you like or dislike. The more you use this option the better Zite gets in learning your likes and dislikes. Finally there is News.me which takes who you follow on Twitter and if they use News.me they are added to your list, along with a list of featured users. If someone is not using News.me you can’t add them. You can remove users at anytime under the preference tab. Once you have everything set up, if you click on a person you will see all the stories they linked to on Twitter. With News.me there is no filter other than who you follow.
The second big difference between the three is their sharing and saving options. All three allow sharing to Facebook, Twitter and by email. Zite also shares with Linkedin. All three applications allow you to save articles to Instapaper. Both Zite and FlipBoard save to Read Later. Zite also saves to Evernote and Delicious.
For me News.me is the weakest of the three because of the lack of filters. Also to be honest I not big into following what other people are linking to, because I follow a lot of people who are interested in tech they tend to link to the same stories. Plus there are some people who I want to read when they link to tech stories, but I have no interest in their political links. On FlipBoard you can add people individually like I did with Robert Scoble . Zite has no option to add individuals to your feeds, but I am ok with that. As far as the UI of each application FlipBoard is the winner, it is beautifully looking, and easy to use, despite this FlipBoard is not my winner. I personally like Zite the best of the three, it has the ability to learn my likes and dislikes better than the other two. Plus I like Zite’s sharing and saving options. I am worried about it sale to CNN, I hope they don’t ruin it. What about you what is your favorite. If you are on Android what do you use.
Google Reader has been the second most used app on my phone, behind only Twitter. It works well, especially since the last update which fixed a major annoyance – when going back to the feed list it no longer takes you back to the top of the list. But, recently I found an even better alternative – D7 Google Reader.
The moment you open D7 you will notice the difference. It’s less stark. The beautifully graphic interface is welcoming. It immediately feels more usable. There are friendly icons to lead you to wherever you want to begin – Reading List, Subscriptions, Starred, Shared, Recommended, and Read Items. It’s a sharp contrast to Google’s own Reader app.
D7 Google Reader
When you click on a feed you will notice another difference. You will get more than just headlines, you will see the first two lines of each article. That may not be a big deal, but it’s a nice touch.
D7 Google Reader article display
The menu button allows you to do a number of things including Share, but the Share option, unfortunately does not include email. Preferences lets you choose from a number of customization options such as changing the Theme and various ways to display subscriptions and articles. It also allows you to follow people and add subscriptions.
There are both free and paid versions of D7 Google Reader. The free version is ad-supported and the paid version retails for a whopping $1.57.
We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Internet-delivered video content lately. Trends sometimes seem to advance slowly over a long period of time but then tumultuous market shifts seem to happen overnight.
Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster was unable to reconfigure their business structure to compete effectively with Netflix. It seems that Netflix has won the ongoing war.
Streaming video and video podcasts have been around for several years – these are not new ideas. However, what is new is the proliferation and increasing popularity of set-top boxes.
Back in the 1980’s backyard satellite TV dishes were a hobby among people that were looking for something different and as many choices as possible. That quest for choice ended up going mainstream in the form of commercial cable and satellite providers offering hundreds of channels.
Starting in 2004 people began experimenting with Internet-delivered content in the form of podcasts. I believe that podcasting happened as a direct result of broadband availability getting to a certain critical mass, combining the existing elements of RSS, MP3’s, etc. into a new form of communication. This new form of communication offered something very different along with unprecedented levels of choice.
Internet-delivered content of all kinds is rapidly becoming mainstream.
I believe 2010 is the year of the app. Apps suddenly seemed to have come out of nowhere to seeming to pop up on every device imaginable. Why the sudden popularity of apps? Desktop and laptop computers have been around for a long time, along with full-blown applications. What has really happened is that computers have now shrunk down to the point where they not only are in our pockets in the form of smartphones, but they are also showing up in HDTV sets and plenty of other devices. These devices we are running these apps on are actually quite powerful computers in their own rights.
There is now a wide variety of content that is heading for every computer-enabled screen you own, especially your HDTV.