The Google Giveth
And the Google taketh away. So it is with Google Reader. A while back, Google discontinued its Google Wave product, because it never gained traction as a social-media platform. This surprised approximately zero people. More recently, Google announced it would be closing Google Reader on July 1, 2013. Far more people were surprised, myself included. In this article, I want to explore some options for those left in the lurch.
Those Clouds Look Ominous
I think even more interesting than Google eliminating Google Reader is the collateral damage it's doing to cloud computing in general. Reader is something I've used for years, depended on in fact, to keep up with the Web sites I find interesting. Google Reader is a program I'd happily pay for, but since it's free, I've always just counted my blessings and moved on. Now that it's disappearing, my dependence on free and/or cloud-based services is weighing heavily on me. Today it's Google Reader; will tomorrow be the end of Dropbox? Flickr? Google Mail?
Since Google's announcement regarding the demise of Reader, I've visited SourceForge and Github more frequently than I have in years. I don't like Google being able to affect my day-to-day computing so dramatically on a whim, and so I've been working hard to make myself less dependent on services like Google Reader. This is the first in what I expect might be a series of articles on self-sufficiency in this cloudy new world.
The simplest way to avoid losing your cloud-based solutions is to avoid Web-based services altogether. Before the original Web applications like Bloglines and Google Reader came about, people were perfectly happy with standalone RSS readers. Many folks still use a standalone application, and if you tend to browse the Web from the same computer all the time, a standalone application might be the perfect solution.
Liferea is a Linux-native application that does a nice job of managing RSS feeds. Like almost every other RSS application, it syncs with Google Reader, but thankfully, it also syncs with Tiny Tiny RSS (more on Tiny Tiny RSS later). Because it has the ability to sync with a back-end database, Liferea can provide the best of both worlds—namely, a local application for browsing RSS feeds, plus syncing with a common back end for reading on other devices and computers. Liferea has a simple interface, but if you want to burn through your RSS feeds, simple is good (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Liferea is simple, but that's not a bad thing.
Tons of other RSS clients work very well under Linux—Akregator, Thunderbird, RSSOwl and many others. I specifically mention Liferea because of its ability to sync with Tiny Tiny RSS, but plenty of perfectly usable RSS readers are available. Check apt-get or your distro's equivalent for "RSS" and you should find several.
Read RSS in Your Browser!
I know it seems like circular logic, but Web browsers can do so much more than browse Web sites. Anyone with a Chromebook can attest to how powerful a browser can be. Firefox has extensions like Sage, Brief or Simple RSS Reader. I could show them all in action, but really, I just recommend going to http://addons.mozilla.org and searching for "RSS". See which ones look appealing, and give them a try!
If you fall on the Google Chrome (or Chromium) side of the fence, there are plenty of Chrome extensions for RSS feed-reading as well. Slick RSS, Feed Reader and several others exist. Google also supplies the RSS Subscription Extension, which allows you to add feeds to your Web-based subscription service directly from the Web site you'd like to add. It recently removed Google Reader as a destination, which makes sense, but other options are available, which leads me to the next possibility.
Third Cloud to the Right
Before I talk about hosting your own solution, I think it's only fair to discuss a few other options available from third parties. Even in light of Google shutting down its much-beloved Reader Application, as long as you keep your eyes wide open, there's nothing wrong with using on-line services—just be ready for them to disappear.
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