Earlier this week, I wrote a post bemoaning the arduous task of picking a new reader what with the Google Reader shutdown. Little did I know that picking a new reader would not be easy or fun. I read post after post about awesome replacement options, but it seemed that none of them would fit my needs – something web-based, platform independent, and easy-to-use.
After delving in to picking a reader, however, I realized that I actually wanted more. I wanted something clean-looking and customizable that is free and has been around for awhile. I looked through a number of options (thanks, everyone!), but my options were somewhat smaller since I wanted something web-based. In the end, I wrote off most of them, including NewsBlur, Pulse, NewsFox, .Collected, My Syndicaat, Bloglines and Prismatic, and I only seriously considered three: feedly, Brief, and The Old Reader.
This is by far the most-loved option in the web community. Established in 2008, it is simple to use and is compatible with both Android and Apple products with an established migration plan for Google Reader users. I genuinely thought I would end up using feedly until I actually got into the program and discovered that the “import” options involve syncing feedly to your Google account so that it can pull your subscriptions from Google Reader.
This didn’t seem to solve the problem in my opinion, because feedly is using Google’s program, but according to the company’s website, it is in the process of developing a server called Normandy on which it will migrate all of its users’ subscriptions before the summer shutdown date for Google Reader.
Nonetheless, I was turned off by the fact that Normandy isn’t already established, and that the reader is (in my opinion), a pain to use. You are forced to install the plugin on Firefox (or presumably use it on your iDevice) and then you are forced to sync it with your Google account. Marking items as “read” isn’t easy and feedly doesn’t allow you to neatly organize your incoming information. I enjoy controlling my information consumption entirely too much to be okay with this, so unfortunately, feedly was axed.
Brief is what I initially ended up selecting, although I am admittedly not crazy about it. Brief is a plugin for Firefox users, so it is cloud-based, simple and free. It is very easy to set up, and you can quickly import subscriptions from a subscriptions.xml file. It is easy-to-organize, readable, and customizable. When you open the browser, an icon appears next to the “Home” icon and it lists the number of new posts you have to read. Once you’re set up on Brief (which, admittedly, takes all of five seconds), you will find that it is a more aesthetically-pleasing version of what Google Reader gives you — it is cleaner, more streamlined, and just plain prettier. Additionally, you click a check mark in the corner of each post to mark it as read by default, which I find quite satisfying.
Quite frankly, Brief is perfect but for one thing: it is completely contingent upon Firefox and the specific computer (and account) that I am using now. Meaning that if this computer crashes, or if I’m simply on a different machine, I lose those subscriptions. Additionally, I tried to use it and it started mixing up my feeds — not a good way to get started, so I moved on.
When I visited the website for The Old Reader, I was thrilled. It is clean and uncluttered, cloud-based, and has an established import protocol for migrating feeds. It has not yet established a mobile platform but one is in the works.
One problem with The Old Reader is also something that I love about it: it is run by three friends as a part-time hobby. In other words, they are absolutely swamped by new users for a platform that was never intended to go viral. Initially, I followed the directions for importing new subscriptions and was shocked at how easy it was – then disappointed by how slow it is to import feeds. The good news is that I was able to import my feeds manually, and after some tinkering, I figured out how to create folders. I am currently having a complete lovefest with it.