Brett Molina, USA TODAY
Google is shutting down its popular RSS Reader as part of a broader "spring cleaning" to concentrate on a smaller selection of services.
In a post on the official blog for Google Reader, software engineer Alan Green cites declining usage and a reshaped focus on fewer products. "We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience," he says.
Google Reader will shut down July 1, so users have enough time to transition to a new option. Launched in 2005, the RSS Reader allowed users to pull content feeds from a variety of websites into one personal hub.
The move to shut down Reader is part of a larger plan detailed on the company's official blog. Among other services getting shuttered: Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect and the voice app for BlackBerry devices.
"It's been a long time since we have had this rate of change - it probably hasn't happened since the birth of personal computing 40 years ago," says Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure. "To make the most of these opportunities, we need to focus-otherwise we spread ourselves too thin and lack impact."
Naturally, Reader's impending shutdown has sparked discussion on whether this marks the end of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), content feeds users can follow on readers such as Google's software.
But social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have played a big role in how we consume content. Now that users can follow websites through social outlets, RSS is becoming less popular.
That's no consolation for the many users who love Google Reader, which is a great way to follow multiple websites within one destination. Fortunately, there are alternatives. Here's a look at four of them:
Feedly. This free RSS reader combines the organizational qualities of Google's software with a magazine-style design. Feeds are easy to add and organize, while a Today tab makes it simple to scroll through the latest news of the day. Feedly is available as extensions on the Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers, and there are mobile apps for Android and iOS. Although the service relies on Google Reader's API, developers say they are creating their own version that will take its place when Reader shuts down July 1.
Pulse. Another visually friendly reader with complimentary Android and iOS apps, Pulse delivers content in a tile format, with stories appearing in a series of photo tiles. Click on a link with image and read the fuller story. Once in the full read mode, users can tap the left or right arrows to move to the next story. Twitter and Facebook buttons sit on top for quick sharing. The process for adding feeds is similar to Google, although Pulse does not appear to have an option for importing Google Reader feeds. When logging in for the first time, users can also opt to follow specific subjects, such as sports, technology or politics.
Flipboard. The "social magazine" for iOS and Android boasts a gorgeous design similar to a digital magazine. Users swipe left to right to navigate as if they're turning the pages of a magazine. Along with adding RSS feeds, users can add their Facebook and Twitter feeds to give them a more dynamic, visually appealing experience. The only drawback is the service is mobile only, so look elsewhere if you want a Web-based option.
Twitter. Yes, this isn't a RSS reader, but the social network is a solid "outside the box" alternative for users wanting to keep up with the news. My approach is creating Lists based on topic and adding accounts I follow. So, I may have one List for tech news and another for business news. It's a great way to separate them from your standard feed, especially if you follow a lot of accounts. Another advantage: users can choose Twitter's primary site and mobile apps, or choose from several Twitter clients for the browser, smartphone or tablet. While users lose the ability to read cleaner versions of articles without visiting the source website, it's a solid option if you're already comfortable with Twitter.