Searching for a Google Reader Replacement with Archiving Features – Fail!

As mentioned in my previous post, New Google Reader Interface Pushes Google+ Sharing, I mostly used Google Reader’s old ‘Share’ button as a way to archive interesting items I had read in Google Reader. I mentioned that while I liked the ability to quickly share to Google+, I did like having the public ‘Shared Items’ page as an archive.

One of the first things I did was embark on a search for a potential Google Reader replacement that had an archiving feature. There are a ton of feed readers available, both web-based and locally-installed. If all you want to do is read new articles and be kept up to date with a favourite site, any feed reader will suffice really.

Locally-installed feed readers are fairly simple and straightforward. They don’t have any sharing features. Because these feed readers are installed onto a computer, there are no ways to sync between computers – you have to set up all your subscriptions on all computers you use. I use more than computer depending on what I’m doing (I like flexibility in my day-to-day life), so a locally-installed reader isn’t ideal for me.

I did check out a feed reader for my Linux Debian netbook. Liferea is popular and is fairly simple and straightforward. Not ideal for what I want to do. For Linux Debian, you can also use Icedove (the mail client) and set up a ‘Blog and News’ account where you can add your subscriptions. It’s not as nice as Liferea though.

If you use Mac, you can try Net News Wire (by Newsgator). I haven’t tried it, so I have no comments.

Moving on to web-based feed readers, I found a few articles reviewing some.

Top 5 online RSS readers This is an outdated article. Rojo doesn’t exist anymore. It’s changed to blogs.com, which doesn’t seem to be a feed reader, but a site that ranks blogs. I went to the Newsgator link, but I didn’t see an online feed reader. It looks like it’s only providing locally-installed feed readers, like Net News Wire for Mac.

Top Online RSS Readers Like the above link, this article is somewhat outdated as it mentions Rojo and Newsgator. I’ll comment on MyYahoo, Genwi, and Feedshow a little later in this article.

Top 10 Web Based RSS Readers, Plus Some This article is a little over a year old, so not terribly out of date. Lazyfeed has apparently been down for maintenance for a long time. Some users have tried contacting them, but got no reply. In one of the comments to this article, someone mentioned that Bloglines was going down. As it turns out, it didn’t – it was bought by MerchantCircle.

Now begins another of my rants.

Apparently, MerchantCircle is known to be a ‘data harvester’. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that. Unfortunately, I was a tad tired and decided to sign up with Bloglines “just to check it out” so I could review it. “Besides, I should be able to delete my account afterwards.” Or so I thought. It turns out you can’t delete your account from Bloglines. Not easily anyway. Despite what it says in its Privacy Policy, you have to email Bloglines to close down your account. Seriously? There are better ways to ensure that an account doesn’t get closed down by the wrong person. I really shouldn’t have to email them. And they really should update their Privacy Policy before implementing any changes to how the account can be managed (or not in this case).

I’ve had experiences in the past with companies that would not delete an account except by email, notably Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. I was one of the first people to use Hotmail, then during some weird updating to their new Hotmail, all my emails were deleted from one or two of my accounts. I still had the account for a while, but had already started moving to Gmail at the time. Later, I decided I wanted to delete my account with Microsoft. That was a nightmare. I could not simply delete my account; I had to go to a variety of pages to find the ‘proper’ account services. I also had used that account with a paid mobile MSN a few years prior (back when there was no data, only SMS), so I had to make sure my ‘billing account’ was properly closed. I haven’t used Microsoft online services since then, really, and that account has, as far as I know, been deleted. I haven’t used it. I created a new Windows Live account after that and now I use it for Xbox aside from IM (I use Pidgin).

Based on my past experiences, I really should have known better about Bloglines. Then again, Google (despite their little faux pas from time to time) has been pretty upfront with how they use your information, how to delete accounts, how to maintain your information, and how to remove your account from one of their online sites. Basically, Google has been, for the most part, fair. (See Google’s Privacy Policy.) I guess I half-expected other companies to be as well, but I guess I really can’t expect that.

I did email Bloglines. I got an auto-reply. *grumble grumble* At least I didn’t give them a lot of information. “Oh, go ‘data harvest’ this, Bloglines! You suck.”

Rant ended.

Bloglines isn’t great in terms of design. Their ‘new’ interface isn’t really better than Google Reader, or a local feed reader for that matter. You can make tab boxes and organize your subscriptions, but there are other feed readers that look better. You also have to remove Bloglines’ cookies from your computer to sign out. Ah well, maybe Bloglines will just shut down its feed reader. It seems like they lost a lot of users anyway, since users thought it was going to be shut down.

Going back to Top 10 Web Based RSS Readers, Plus Some, I briefly looked at the other free feed readers listed there keeping in mind “Oh yeah, I really should look at their Privacy Policies.” No Privacy Policy means I’m not signing up, especially with the services provided by corporations. For smaller sites, it’s important that they have good admin support.

MySyndicaat didn’t seem to have a Privacy Policy. If a link to the Privacy Policy isn’t displayed somewhere on the main page of a site, it kind of says a lot about that site’s attitude towards users’ privacy. About the site’s features – I personally didn’t like the design. The interface doesn’t look like it’d be any better than Google Reader’s. Doesn’t look like there’s any way to archive interesting items.

MyAllTop seems too ad-focused for my tastes. They’ve included “MyAllTop collections” created by “famous/cool friends” for users to see. I don’t necessarily care about this, never mind that I have no idea who these people are: Christina Warren? Fred Wilson? for example. I’m not comfortable with AllTop’s Privacy Policy. To view it, click on ‘Legal’ at the bottom right of their main page. “We retain your MyAlltop account information and the aggregated non-personally identifiable information we collect from you indefinitely. We also retain the comments submitted by users of our blog indefinitely. We do not currently have any purging policy.” MyAllTop does show you how its site works before you sign up, which is nice. See its tutorial page. It doesn’t seem to have a way to archive items either.

Superfeedr isn’t technically a feed reader, that much is clear. As for exactly how it works, I’m a little unclear on that. Seems to have something to do with push notifications. Since it’s not even a feed reader, it’s doubtful it has a way to archive interesting items. Its Privacy Policy is okay – not as good as Google’s though. I can’t find anything precise that makes me say, “Oh dear.” Throughout, the policy makes it clear that if you don’t provide information, you may not be able to use some of their services. (I’m guessing most of their services.) I guess that’s somewhat fair – “don’t use our service if you don’t want us to use any of your information”. Better than not saying anything at all.

Netvibes is partners with MerchantCircle. Run! Okay, okay, I’ll add some more comments on Netvibes. I don’t like using sites that have the “basic features” versus “premium features”. I try to avoid these sites as much as possible, though not all of these kinds of sites are bad. Some do include nice features in “basic” at least. Netvibes is more than just a feed reader. It seems to be like iGoogle or MyYahoo. Unfortunately, you cannot delete a Netvibes account, except by email. It says so in the Privacy Policy, which is somewhat decent. I just don’t like playing email tag in order to try to delete an account. (Here I thought trying to delete Facebook was the worst these days.)

Collected looks like it has potential. The site is relatively new, being only a couple of years old (see Collected’s blog and its Twitter account). There is no Privacy Policy and no Terms of Service or Terms of Use, however. The site allows you to browse other ‘collections’ and that will give you an idea of how it works. The blog hasn’t been updated in about a year, so I’m hesitant to give this site a try. No Privacy Policy, don’t know if I can delete my account, and it’s sketchy how much admin support there is available.

MyYahoo always felt like information overload to me. I used Yahoo in the past when I had a Geocities site. I’ve also used their Groups services before. I still have a Group there that I set up. I’m also apparently still an Owner of a Group I set up for a semi-public community. (I probably should get them set up on their own server or something, but I don’t have the time and haven’t been around that community in a long while. As little as I know about servers and computer programming, I still know a lot more than the people in that Group. I might feel a tad bad for them if Yahoo shuts down Groups or something and they’ll have to find something else.) The other Group I created is pretty much dead because I never had the time to dedicate to it. I also would much rather set up a message forum on the Linode server I’m using for my websites and this blog, but again just don’t have the time to do this. Consequently, I’ve not signed into my Yahoo account in ages. Occasionally, I’ve signed into IM via Pidgin, but that’s about it. As mentioned on Top Online RSS Readers: “MyYahoo can be a great reader. But once you fill up a couple of tabs, it might be time to move on to a true reader.” I probably have enough subscriptions already that reading them on MyYahoo would be more of a headache than the site already gives me. (I think it’s something about the design of it. Too bright for my tastes. I like bold colours sometimes, but sometimes I like subtlety. I think it just feels like everything on a Yahoo page is competing for attention and I can’t just focus on any one thing.) I’m actually surprised Yahoo is still around.

Genwi used to be free – it isn’t anymore. It’s more business focused. Its Privacy Policy is worse than Google’s. I don’t see why I should pay for a service that has a worse Privacy Policy than a free service, especially if all I want to do is read stuff from other websites that happens to be pulled into another site. Here’s a few problematic items in Genwi’s Privacy Policy “We link information gathered using Non-Personally-Identifying Information to Personally-Identifying Information.” Having done marketing analysis before and also having worked in the marketing industry for a time, I know you don’t have to link information to personally-identifying information in order to help improve a service or website. I would like to know what information are they linking. “We may use the Personally-Identifiable Information that you submit for any purposes related to our business.” Any purposes? Uh, no thanks. I’d like details please. Supposedly you can delete your Genwi account at least.

Feedshow is like Collected, except it’s been around longer. It doesn’t have a Privacy Policy or a Terms of Service/Use. It does have a forum, but it doesn’t seem to have recent activity. The link to the blog doesn’t work. I hesitate to use a site if I can’t find admin support for it. With no Privacy Policy, at least have good admin support. You know, someone who actually answers the emails – no auto-replies like Bloglines, thank you. At least Feedshow provides a demo for how their site works. Feedshow looks promising, but it’s possible it didn’t catch on so the site admins just gave up on it. The same could be true for Collected. Sad really, both sites looked promising.

Lastly, there are two feed readers that are based off of Google Reader. You have to have a Google account to use these feed readers.

Helvetireader is not being developed further. Says so on the website. “Sorry!”

Feedly is a browser app/extension that takes the RSS subscriptions from your Google Reader account and allows you to organize and display the articles your way. It can also integrate with your Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Of course, that means Twitter and Facebook will be linked to your Google account.) Simply use a Google account to sign in. While I’m not sure I’m going to use Feedly, some people like it for it’s nice design. There were some privacy questions about Feedly, which have been patiently answered by one of the creators of/people working on Feedly. It’s nice to see good admin support for Feedly. There’s a tutorial on the site and they’ve updated Feedly recently to include the +1 button and sharing to Google+ (read about Feedly6). Doesn’t seem to have a way to archive interesting items though. If you’re interested in Feedly as a design-friendly way to look at your Google Reader subscriptions, you can follow them on Twitter as well for updates.

So, there you have it. A review of some alternatives to Google Reader. None of them satisfy my criteria for a suitable replacement (i.e, decent Privacy Policy or admin support and a nice interface that allows me to archive interesting items.) If you’re interested in looking at more feed readers, you can check out this list of feed aggregators on Wikipedia. I didn’t bother with that list mostly because there’s only so many I can look at before I just don’t care anymore, and that list looks a bit outdated.

Next, I considered different ways of creating an archive of interesting items to share publicly. Read my next blog article if you’re interested in what I’ve decided to do.

~~~C

2 Responses to “Searching for a Google Reader Replacement with Archiving Features – Fail!”

  1. Pneumatised! » The Shared Items Archive and Sharing on the New Google Reader – A Solution Says:

    […] mentioned in my previous post, I failed to find a decent replacement for Google Reader. Honestly, I didn’t think there […]

  2. Fred Says:

    Tried RSSOwl, It can sync or import feeds archived in in Google reader which is good if a user wants to keep an archive for older feeds.
    And it has a password protection in start up.

    But it does not sync the actions after imported.
    The critical failure is speed. It’s database is very slow and the app is nearly frozen when updating feeds or opening feed with a number of feed items.

    I’m looking for a better one too.

    [Reply]

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