The Google Giveth
Arguably the most popular "alternative" to Google Reader is Feedly. In a slightly ironic twist, Feedly uses Google Reader as its back-end API for keeping your RSS feeds in sync across devices. Feedly was designed as a front end to Google Reader, but from a user's perspective, it's an alternative. The Feedly folks have announced they will be transitioning users seamlessly from the Google Reader back end to whatever their new platform will be. It's still a testament to how much people (even companies) depend on free services to remain available.
Feedly takes a far more visual approach to RSS feeds, and by default, it presents a magazine-like view of Web stories. (See the Feedly Android client in Figure 2.) Some people really like this, and it seems to be a trend for RSS readers of late. Personally, I find it annoying, but I can see the appeal. Feedly is free, but it soon will be offering a "pro" version that supports off-line browsing.
Figure 2. Feedly has many cross-platform clients, plus it works on the Web.
The Old Reader:
If the new flipboard/magazine look offends your very being, another on-line alternative to Reader is The Old Reader. I suspect it's not a coincidence that the interface to The Old Reader looks almost identical to how Google Reader looked in the old days (Figure 3). It appears to be completely free, which I'd normally consider a good thing, but thanks to Google, I'm gun-shy about such things now. Nonetheless, The Old Reader can import your Google Reader feeds, and it functions almost exactly like the Google Reader of old (with at least one major exception, which I discuss later).
Figure 3. The Old Reader looks like, well, The Old Google Reader!
The Old Reader doesn't import Google Reader subscriptions automatically, but it does allow the import of a subscription file in the format Google provides. Because The Old Reader doesn't use Google Reader as its back end, the demise of the latter shouldn't affect the former. It is possible that the mass exodus of Google Reader users will have an adverse affect on performance, but hopefully that can be overcome.
NewsBlur is an interesting contender for "Google Reader Replacement". It is a fully open-source program, but the service provided from http://www.newsblur.com offers a very restricted "free" offering. I want to like NewsBlur, especially based on its open nature, but the free offering is so limited (it limits the number of feeds you can add), it's hard to test it long enough to justify the subscription fee. Like Feedly, NewsBlur offers a more "exciting" interface for browsing your feed (Figure 4). If you prefer that sort of look, NewsBlur is worth checking out. The open-source reality of NewsBlur brings me to the next and final section.
Figure 4. NewsBlur has a great interface, there's no denying it.
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