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RSS Readers: Alternatives for Google Reader

Recently, Google announced that its RSS reader (known as “Google Reader”) will be retired on July 1st, 2013.  The only thing that happened faster than the public outcry was the flurry of alternative reader suggestions across the World Wide Web. 

Background info

RSS, or as it is often known: “really simple syndication,” is a method for publishing frequent updates from websites that are constantly updating.  For example, a news site might have an RSS feed of local headlines, or a journal may publish its Table of Contents as an RSS feed.  The Medical College offers RSS feeds for news, events, and funding opportunities, and the MCW Libraries provide RSS feeds on MCW authors’ publications as well as support for the RSS feeds from their various electronic resources.  Numerous tools have been developed for managing feeds, including Google Reader.  These tools allow individuals to subscribe to multiple feeds, and to organize the feeds in ways that make staying up to date on numerous websites easier.

While some argue that RSS is being phased out completely as new ways for staying current gain in popularity (Twitter, Facebook, and native apps have all been mentioned as reasons for RSS’s demise), many continue to feel that the best way to stay on top of new content is through RSS and the use of feed readers.  The MCW Libraries recognize the need for a Google Reader alternative, and have tested two free alternatives, and also developed a list of resources for learning more about the many additional options that are out there.

  • Feedly – This tool requires the installation of a Firefox or Chrome extension to work, and does not work on Internet Explorer.  The interface is a little daunting in its differences from Reader, but it is very customizable.  Items can be saved to read later and tags can be assigned to help with additional organization outside of the folder structure.  When importing feeds from Google Reader, any existing folder structure is also kept intact.  The Feedly developers have indicated that they’re working on a seamless migration process from Google Reader (called “Normandy”). They also provide some tips on how to personalize the Feedly interface to “match your existing workflows.”  There are mobile apps for the different platforms, and it is one of the more popular replacements for this reason and because of its easy integration with current Google Reader accounts.
  • The Old Reader – This project began a few years ago, in order to create a mirror of the older, simpler Google Reader interface.  It’s nice and clean, has a folder structure, allows for “liking” items, and has some sharing features.  It does not have tags, and there are only two different interface options (full view versus list view).  There is also no mobile version yet, although it may be in development.  Old Reader is a good solution for those who want something simple that can import current Google Reader feeds (there are currently some issues with the import feature, due the volume of new users they’re receiving since Google’s announcement). NOTE: Old Reader is not supported on Internet Explorer 8. Firefox, IE9, or IE10 are the preferred browsers.

There are a number of additional options, both web (like the two above) and desktop-based.   Outlook can actually be used to manage RSS feeds.  The citation manager RefWorks also has an RSS interface; its features are limited, but it does allow for easily saving entries as citations.  For power users, Tiny Tiny RSS is a free, open source platform for self-hosting.  

Additional resources:

Regardless of the tool you choose, please feel free to contact the Libraries at asklib@mcw.edu or 414.955.8302 for support.  The librarians are becoming familiar with different options in preparation of our users’ questions and for our own use, and will happily share our expertise and troubleshoot with you.

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Page Updated 07/22/2014