The Google Reader shutdown: Last chance to move on

Just a reminder

If you use Google Reader, you’ll know by now that Google is shutting the service down on July 1. That’s tomorrow.

Since its launch in October 2005, Google Reader became a popular choice for many as the preferred method of subscribing to, reading and sharing information via RSS from blogs and websites.

I’ve had a Google Reader account since its launch, yet I never really used Google Reader. My preference was a desktop reader programme: FeedDemon for Windows. I preferred a tool that ran on the computer I was using and that I could use offline, when there was no network connection – more common than not back in the early days – and that let me do far more than simply subscribe to RSS feeds and read the news. I’ve been using FeedDemon since 2004.

Until relatively recently, you could synchronize FeedDemon content with your Google Reader account. I saw that as the best of both worlds – your content from your RSS feeds available on your computer whether you had a network connection or not, and also access to that content in the cloud (as we now call it), handy when you were using a computer that didn’t have FeedDemon installed.

Over time, Google Reader became a de facto choice – along with other in-the-cloud tools to access, read and share news and information – for increasing numbers of people.

But things move on: new services emerge, we see huge changes in people’s behaviours and the devices we use – more mobile and cloud than desktop – and, according to Google, usage of Google Reader has been declining in recent years.

And now what? Google Reader really will shut down on July 1 and if you haven’t backed up your data yet and set up another service to use, you’re almost out of time.

My recommendation for today – backup your data now; if you haven’t got an alternative ready to move to, you can spend some time choosing one without much worry as long as you have your backup done (unless you just want to start from scratch again).

To do that, go to Google Takeout and follow the simple instructions. It shouldn’t take you long. (But read this too: Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader.)

As for a replacement for Google Reader, you’re spoiled for choice today. Since Google announced last March that the end of Reader is coming, quite a few companies have launched replacements and others with current offerings have stepped up their awareness-raising.

So where should you go? Much depends on what you want from a feed reader. A good start would be comparing what’s on offer. Here’s a handy chart courtesy of MarketingLand:

[Chart] Compare feed readers

Not listed is FeedDemon. I believe it’s still a viable option and I plan to continue using it, especially as developer Nick Bradbury released an update a few days ago.

Yet I recognize the changes I see where the convenience of being able to access your subscriptions from any device, any where and at any time is increasingly compelling, and that makes a program that runs only on a Windows computer – and that you have to install on every computer you might want to use it on – look increasingly cumbersome and unattractive.

So I’ve also been looking at alternatives, not as a migration route from Google Reader but potentially as a complement to FeedDemon. And I’ve yet to discover one that offers me all that I love about FeedDemon and find most useful.

But looking around is what I’ve been doing, and I’ve settled on one attractive and potential choice for me – Digg Reader. It’s in beta and certainly far from perfect at the moment. But I like its look-and-feel simplicity on the desktop a great deal, that mirrors the simplicity and clean look of both Google Reader and of FeedDemon. There is an app for iOS; I’m looking forward to the Android version when that comes out.

Screenshots (click or tap for full-size images) -

Digg Reader beta:

Digg Reader beta

Google Reader:

Google Reader

FeedDemon:

FeedDemon

(It’s funny, I get a sense of dé jà vu looking at all of these products – they remind me of Bloglines, the very first RSS reader I used.)

Still, I’m sticking with FeedDemon on my Windows machines and I will use a cloud-based reader on my mobile (Android) devices such as Digg Reader (and Flipboard, my current favourite reading and sharing tool on Android).

So, do your Google Reader data backup if you haven’t already, and spend a bit of time looking at other options. You have plenty of choice.

Some helpful further reading and reviews:

Last Call: Google Reader Dies Monday, Here Are The Best Alternatives – TechSpot
Top Alternatives to Google Reader Plus Other Discontinued Google Products – Search Engine Journal
Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives – Lifehacker
10 Google Reader Alternatives That Will Ease Your RSS Pain – Gizmodo
Google Reader: what are the alternatives? – The Guardian
FeedDemon 4.5 cuts Google Reader ties, Pro version free for all – GHacks
Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader – persistent.info

Related posts:

The demise of two RSS readers marks the passing of an era

Google Reader and FeedDemon

Yesterday, Google announced the sunsetting of eight products and services in a move they described as a second spring of cleaning.

The one that is making headlines across the social web is Google Reader, the browser-based tool that aggregates and lets you read and share content from your RSS feeds.

On the Google Reader Blog, software engineer Alan Green says there are two reasons for the closure:

[…] usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

(My interpretation of the focus point – Google would prefer to have your attention and time with Google+, the embryonic one-stop-entry for everything Google.)

Passionate responses abound, ranging from a petition to Google to keep it going, a single-page fan site that politely asks Google the same, and opinions of every emotional hue.

I can’t imagine Google will reverse its decision, but you never know.

Also yesterday, Nick Bradbury, developer of the FeedDemon RSS aggregator and reader for Windows, announced the end of the road for that application, with no further development or other support for it beyond Google Reader’s closure date on July 1, adding:

[…] If you’re using FeedDemon without Google Reader synchronization, it will continue to work beyond July 1. You can keep using it to read your feeds for years to come. If you’re synching FeedDemon with Google Reader, you can disable synching by selecting Tools > Options > Synchronization Options, then switching to the “Accounts” tab and removing your Google account.

That sync between FeedDemon and Google Reader was useful as it gave you access to your RSS-delivered content on two platforms, so to speak – your computer for the Windows program, and the same content in the cloud (as we call it today) via your browser. Although I’ve never really used Google Reader, I found that feature useful from time to time.

I’ve used FeedDemon just about every day since 2004. But perhaps it is time now to find a compelling alternative as directly accessing RSS-delivered content from different devices is becoming a prime behaviour.

Lifehacker has some recommendations on alternatives for Google Reader (which ironically recommends FeedDemon as one, clearly unaware of the FD news).

Feedblitz’ Phil Hollows has some interesting perspectives on the Google Reader announcement, focusing on it as representative of a shift or change in how people use tools like RSS feeds:

[…] Feeds are not Dead

Anyone calling this the end of RSS is on crack. RSS lives and is the core technology binding your site’s content to other sites and services, such as Facebook and Twitter. Google doesn’t own, nor do they control, RSS.  RSS is a core content marketing technology. It is the core service-to-service content distribution technology, and as such delivers your content more readers than possibly anything else. RSS is alive and kicking.

People Use Feeds Directly Less and Less

When Google says that usage of reader had declined, I believe them. RSS as a way to consume content for people appealed to a minority.

In the early days of the social web – that’s a decade or so ago – when the infrastructure was being developed, RSS was a key component of that. Hence tools like FeedDemon, and undoubtedly one reason why Google stepped into the fray with Google Reader.

Now, RSS is, effectively, part of the internet plumbing. As Phil Hollows notes, feeds are not dead, you just don’t notice them any more. Today, much of the content you might get on your computer or mobile device is actually delivered by RSS yet you’re no longer exposed to that tech aspect.

And maybe that’s how things ought to be now. As ideas and technologies shift and evolve – where are we now? Web 3.0? – our usage methods and our behaviours shift too.

Still, change with some things can be hard to get used to.

Moving on from Feedburner to Feedblitz

feedburner2feedblitz

After seven years, it’s time to say goodbye to Feedburner and say hello to Feedblitz.

A week ago, I wrote about my worries that RSS feeds delivered via Feedburner might not work after October 20, after a note on the Google Developers’ Feedburner website said that the Feedburner APIs would shut down on that date.

I noted at the time:

RSS is the “delivery backbone” for creating and delivering much of the content that people use the internet for. You would have thought that turning off the flow of content that’s used by so many people and businesses is a pretty big deal, one that would warrant some communication from Google. I can find none.

There’s been some big confusion over what Google actually intends, with many people simply wondering as I did if it meant no RSS feeds – or email subscriptions – any more. There’s been no clarity from Google, so I think it hardly surprising that Twitter has been awash with tweets from people wondering about their subscriptions that Feedburner delivers, both RSS and email.

While some knowledgeable voices have expressed doubt that the Feedburner API closure means no more RSS, it hasn’t diminished concerns.

So I reached out directly to Google to ask for clarification – and never had a reply.

It was after reading a post a few days ago on Jay Baer‘s website on why he moved from Feedburner to Feedblitz that I decided to make the same move.

So I followed Feedblitz’ excellent migration guide and I’m now set up to serve content to subscribers to this blog via RSS and email using Feedblitz’ services.

quickfeedinfo

I’m especially impressed with the seamless way in which Feedblitz carried out its migration, puling in all the RSS and email details it needed from Feedburner to replicate everything at Feedblitz in a way that’s transparent to current subscribers – you should not experience any interruption in your subscription.

The one thing in the migration process that did give me pause for thought was the need to disable Google’s 2-step verification process in order for Feedblitz’ migration wizard to work. But I did, let Feedblitz do its work and then re-enabled 2-step verification. The downside is that some of the apps on my smartphone and computers that access my Google accounts via APIs needed re-verification, something to be aware of if you use 2-step verification.

Feedblitz is a paid service compared to Feedburner which is free, and its pricing structure is based on how many email subscribers you have, not how many RSS subscribers. If, like me, you have many RSS and few email, it’s a low-cost and viable option. Vice-versa, be prepared to pay more.

Note, too, that Feedblitz isn’t the only game in town if you’re looking for an alternative to Feedburner. For instance, read what Jim Connolly chose to do as he migrated his email subscriptions away from Feedburner.

I haven’t yet learned all about the depth and breadth of what Feedblitz offers me as a web publisher compared to Feedburner. For now, I’m pleased that I have enabled a service in which I have much greater confidence will be around for a long time.

So why not take a look at Feedblitz, which offers a 30-day free trial.

Related post:

Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012

feedburnerapideprecated

[Update September 15: Moving on from Feedburner to Feedblitz. I decided to move away from Feedburner. The post you're reading, and it's update at the end, tries to throw some light on a murky picture, with limited success. I've made my decision to go to Feedblitz, explained in the new post.]

Did you know that Google intends to shut down access to Feedburner’s APIs on October 20? A banner note on the Google Developers Feedburner API page makes that intent clear:

Important: The Google Feedburner APIs have been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011 will be shut down on October 20, 2012.

It is the case that Google signalled a limited future for Feedburner with its deprecation post in May last year:

[...] Following the standard deprecation period – often, as long as three years – some of the deprecated APIs will be shut down. The rest have no scheduled date for shutdown, but won’t get any new features. The policy for each deprecated API is specified in its documentation.

The post then listed a number of deprecated APIs that have no scheduled shutdown date, including Feedburner.

Well, we now do have that date – October 20, 2012.

What this means is that if you use Feedburner as a service that enables readers of your blog to receive your content via RSS or email every time you update the blog – and that includes audio and video (eg, podcasts), not only text content – that will cease working on October 20.

I’ve been using Feedburner since 2004. Over 3,200 RSS subscribers get posts every time I publish one, as do email subscribers. My content is widely syndicated via services like Newstex, Demand Media, CIPR Conversation and Web Pro News – all of which get that content from its RSS feed… via Feedburner. Shel and I use Feedburner for the FIR podcast.

I’ve looked hard and can find no mention anywhere of this Feedburner API shut-down on any Google website other than the banner text on the website I mentioned earlier. There’s no mention of the closure at all, anywhere, in my account at Feedburner. And if I click the link on "Feedburner blog" in my account, I get the Google Adsense for Feeds blog – which itself closed down in July.

Feedburner is the means by which over a million RSS feeds on websites deliver content to people according to the Wikipedia entry on Feedburner (and that was the figure in  2007: it must have grown even a little since then). Those websites include big media properties, mainstream and social, alongside individual bloggers like me.

RSS is the "delivery backbone" for creating and delivering much of the content that people use the internet for. You would have thought that turning off the flow of content that’s used by so many people and businesses is a pretty big deal, one that would warrant some communication from Google. I can find none.

It seems to me that Google isn’t taking any of this seriously at all.

I first heard about this when Rebecca Caroe emailed me a few weeks ago, and which was a discussion topic on FIR episode 666 on August 27. Yet at that time, no one had any clear information on a closure date.

Rebecca pointed me to a prescient post by Dan Thornton on August 3 which asked "Is Feedburner about to be closed by Google?" Dan linked to a migration guide by FeedBlitz – a Feedburner competitor with a paid service offering – and an interesting discussion thread on Dave Winer’s blog entitled "What if Feedburner closes?" on two technically-oriented ways to deal with the shutdown and keep your RSS continuity:

1. Google can use the redirection facilities built into the web to send traffic to the Feedburner version of your feed back to its original location. That way people can keep publishing their feed contents and the subscribers will continue to receive updates. It’s crucial that the connection between publishers and subscribers be preserved.

2. You can use the facility that Google provides to map a CNAME to your feed, so that if Google shuts down Feedburner, you can point that name at your main server, and your feed could continue to be accessed even if Google does not provide a redirect.

Without some signal from Google, I wouldn’t assume on the former happening at all. The latter approach looks more feasible.

If you use WordPress, you can simply revert back to your blog’s native RSS feed (which will be the underlying source for the Feedburner feed). You can also continue to serve your email subscribers with WordPress’ email subscription service. Other blogging platforms and services may have similar procedures.

Whatever you decide to do, you should take action right now.

feedburnerapishut

(Hat tip to Jim Connolly for the heads up on the Feedburner shut-down date.)

[Update Sept 10, 11:45am:] As some of the comments on this post indicate, there is strong doubt that Google’s planned shutdown of the Feedburner APIs next month means that RSS feeds will no longer work.

Similar opinions have been shared in the discussion about this post on Google+.

Such opinions have validity, especially when they’re expressed by people I know and whose opinions I do respect. Adam Tinworth, for instance on Google+:

[...] Closing an API is not the same thing as closing the service. The Feedburner APIs did very little other than give you a way of pulling your Feedburner subscription stats into other metrics systems. The death of the API will kill a few WordPress plugins and some app, but not much else. The core business of serving feeds and providing metrics on them is not dependent on the APIs, and those services are unlikely to go away as long as Google sees value in serving ads through feeds. Given where Google makes the majority of its money, I suspect that day will be a long time coming.

A more positive read of this would be that they’re sweeping away the deprecated (and, I suspect, ill-used) APIs prior to the final integration of Feedburner into the rest of Google.

However, positive or negative, their communication has been terrible.

[...] RSS feeds should work absolutely fine after the API is shut down. They do not require or use the API.

David Kutcher, too. I don’t know David but his comments make sense:

[...]  unfortunately I can see what happened here: a development manager posted that update on the FeedBurner Developer site intended for developers that understood what they were talking about. When that post was picked up by non-developers it of course became confused.  I doubt any Google employee is going to post anything, mainly because to them (the development manager) they probably think they’re being crystal clear. The API is being shut down with no mention of the service.?

I’ve reached out directly to Google for clarity; if I get a response, I’ll add a further update.

How to hack an RSS feed from a Twitter hashtag

If you moderate or participate in tweet chats, you know how frantic they can be. In a lively discussion, you can get a constant firehose of tweets pouring at you over the course of the chat, often an hour or so.

Capturing the full flood of Twitter chat is no easy task. There are workarounds (eg, copy tweets and paste periodically into a text editor, or use Storify) yet most if not all are pretty manually intensive.

As a continuing advocate and lover of RSS feeds, it’s great to learn of a simple and easy way to use RSS to automatically capture all tweets in a chat, and in a way that gives you the rich wholeness of a tweet: links to content and to the tweeter’s profile.

Here’s the how-to:

[...] Academic librarian Valerie Forrestal has documented a simple way to score RSS feeds for any Twitter search result, i.e. for hashtags. Following her cheat sheet, we see that it’s simple matter of plugging in the search keyword into this formula:

http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%23hashtag

Replace the bold “hashtag” with your own keyword, drop this URL into an RSS reader, and you’ve got yourself a continuous RSS feed of that hashtag.

I set this up on a tweet chat I facilitated yesterday – http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=%23dellsmbchat – and it works perfectly. I have that feed plugged into FeedDemon on my Windows desktop, with the feed properties set to keep 500+ tweets so I can capture all of yesterday’s discussion.

Nice tip from +Mark Sample, assistant professor of literature and new media at George Mason University.

Embedded Link

Hacking an RSS Feed for Twitter Hashtags – ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education
EKG Reading Twitter has made it increasingly difficult to use RSS as a way to read individual user streams, and more crucially, hashtag streams. Perhaps this is not entirely Twitter’s fault, as RS…

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

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FeedDemon 4: definitely worth $20

fd4proThe developer of one of the most useful programs I have installed on my computers just issued a major update, which I’ve gladly installed. The program is FeedDemon and version 4 has just been released.

I’ve been using FeedDemon since 2004 – about the time I really discovered the value of RSS – and consider it to be the best RSS application for Windows by far.

I’ve written a great deal in this blog (and in my now-archive blog) about FeedDemon over the past six years. I wrote about the various new versions as they came out and also about NewsGator’s acquisition of developer Nick Bradbury (well, the company that Bradbury headed, certainly) in 20o5 and its integration into NewsGator’s product line.

A lot’s happened in the intervening years including making FD a free application and then, during the version 3 developments, it becoming ad supported with an option to pay to remove the ads. Bradbury parted company with NewsGator in 2009 but he retains rights to develop FeedDemon, and that brings us up to date with the new version 4.

Here’s a summary of six features of FeedDemon:

  • Google Reader Synchronization - Use FeedDemon at home, your office, or anywhere you go and keep your feeds, tags and shared items synched between locations.
  • Sharing – FeedDemon’s simple single-click sharing lets your friends subscribe to your favourite articles.
  • Tagging – Assign your own keywords to items, making it easy to classify and locate articles you’ve previously read.
  • Watches – Tell FeedDemon to let you know when your keywords appear in any feed you’re subscribed to.
  • Search Feeds – Get alerted when your keywords appear in any feed, regardless of whether you’re subscribed to it.
  • Podcasts – Let FeedDemon automatically download audio files and copy them to your iPod or other media device.

See the FAQ for more information.

One big change with version 4 – there are now two version: FeedDemon Lite (free) and FeedDemon Pro ($19.,95 or $9 to upgrade if you already paid for version 3 ad removal). Why? Here’s Bradbury’s explanation:

[...] I had to pay the bills with whatever money FeedDemon generated, and as popular as FeedDemon is, it’s not popular enough to bring in enough cash through ads alone. And very few people were paying just to get rid of the ads (can you blame them?).

For a year I kept FeedDemon free, and I started work on FeedDemon 4.0 in the hopes I could find a way to keep it free yet still pay the bills. But eventually it was clear that the only way to keep FeedDemon (and myself) going was to start charging for it again, and I figured the best way to do that was to come out with a free ad-supported Lite version with fewer features, along with a for-pay Pro version that had all the features and no ads. That way there would still be a free version, which I knew had to exist, while at the same time there would be a way I could charge for a more feature-rich version.

I just bought a license for FeedDemon Pro. I first bought a license way back during version 1.x (when it cost almost $30). I’m more than happy to still pay for a tool that’s evolved and improved hugely over time and one I consider to be extremely useful if not indispensible, as well as support an indie software developer who makes a great product.

And $20 (about £12.65 or €12.15 at the moment) is amazing value for a tool that lets you do so much. If you haven’t tried it, why not give it a go?