Time To Get Serious About RSS Readers

2013-04-23 22:16 - General

As mentioned, Google Reader is going away. I'm not as upset as I was at first. There are possible replacements out there. The question now is, which? Here's my opinion for likely candidates.

First, a quick overview of some of the things I consider important. Things that power important use cases to me, in Google Reader terms because that's what I'm used to.


I tried Feedly briefly a while ago. They're a quick disqualification; while they have the mobile clients, they have no "web site". Or, they do, but they block you from accessing it if you don't have their extension installed in your browser. And it's repugnant. I don't want crap overlaid on every page I ever visit. It's optional, but we're already down the wrong path. What's their business model? Ads, I think? Why won't they disappear soon?

The Old Reader

It might be a hot topic for some, but The Old Reader's first strike for me is federated login only. I don't want your service tied to another like that. They do some sort of crazy styled scroll bar, which is also invisible most of the time; I dislike those. They're not super fast. Keyboard shortcuts fair. Folders, which I got via OPML import, but I can't (immediately?) figure out how to move feeds in/out. Meh. Missing revenue source seems even worse than Feedly

Tiny Tiny RSS

One of the first open source tools I learned about was Tiny Tiny RSS. Rather than a hosted service, this is just a program which you host yourself. There is an android client; they want $2 for it but I think its sources are available, too.

Host-it-yourself open source means there's a certain bar to entry (quite low for me), but also that you can keep using it forever without worrying about changes or disappearance. So I installed a copy. First glance seems better than I expected. It's also definitely not fast. Steals tab-switching hotkeys, at least in preferences, which is a bad sign. Plugin architecture means it should be easily customizable. Filters built in is nice. It's not just slow. It absolutely pegs my CPU, doing almost anything. And the ultimate dealbreaker: no river of news. It forces feeds' items all next to each other, grouped by feed. Maybe that can be customized, but the giant CPU hog that is its javascript can't. My (quad-core i7) CPU pegs for ~15 seconds just loading the page.


I know there's Taptu (I want a feed reader, not a "magazine"). There's 1kpl.us which looks kinda nice, pleasingly minimal, but closed and disappear-y (where does the money come from, if any?). Rssminer has a nice simple design, but too few features I think. I'm coming pretty close to scraping the bottom of the barrel...


NewsBlur is real open source with a permissive license. It's second behind Feedly on ReplaceReader. It's apparently a labor of (mostly?) love by one guy. It didn't fare with the original announcement well, but he's caught up as far as I can tell. The interface is a little busy, but workable. It does river of news correctly, plus folders for when I need to escape that. Keyboard shortcuts aren't perfect, but close. And there's an android client (which is also open source). And a real revenue stream. Plus, some more unusual features; some seem useful.

I think I've made my decision. My early gut feeling seems to have been correct.


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