I’ve been an avid Bloglines user for the better part of two years. I read a lot of stuff online, and while I don’t think it’s really saved me time, it has allowed me to be more efficient as I’ve come across more and more interesting web sites. If a site I like has an RSS feed, I just add it to my Bloglines list, and it saves me the trouble of bookmarking hundreds of sites. Now, I couldn’t go back to web browsing without a feed reader. I would say it’s without a doubt the most important part of my web experience.
Ever since I started using Bloglines, I’ve tried other RSS readers and found them all to be lacking in one way or another. Eventually I figured out that I required the following things from a good RSS reader:
- Web-based. I’ve read about a handful of other news aggregators that are all desktop-based programs, but the appeal of the web-based platform to me has been its potential for improvement in functionality. I was impressed when Bloglines introduced their mobile reader (for cell phones), which just wouldn’t work without a web interface. Google may be expanding on this potential, and I’ll get to that in a minute.
- Smooth interface. This is kind of a vague requirement, but I want my feed reader to be intuitive to use. Bloglines updates my feeds in real time and marks everything as read once I’ve opened a group of items. For a while, Google Reader didn’t allow you to read groups of feeds all at once (requiring you to click on every item one at a time or view all items in all groups at once), but that has changed, and the interface now isn’t that much different.
- Reliability. If the servers have a hiccup, I don’t want to miss out on 6 hours worth of feeds. Bloglines has been a dream in this department. Even the occasional (short) bit of downtime has ended with all of my feeds remaining intact, remembering the items I have already seen.
Now, as you might have guessed from the title, I’m actually considering a switch from Bloglines (owned by Ask.com) to Google Reader. Here are some of my reasons for doing so. If you have any suggestions on one or the other (or an entirely different service), I’m all ears.
- Stars. Google Reader, like pretty much every other Google service, allows you to star things you find important. In the case of my feeds, I can star items I want to come back to later, whereas Bloglines would cause me to lose it, unless I wanted to go through the process of figuring out when it was posted. I could just as easily go to the website to do that, and I’m trying to make my web experience more efficient here.
- Sharing. Bloglines has a “share” function, but it only involves sharing the feed itself, not individual items on the feed. Google Reader now allows you to share an individual item, which places it on a public webpage. Theoretically, I can link to that webpage (or get the feed from it) to show the items I’ve read that I find to be the most interesting, and I won’t even have to blog about it.
- Because it’s Google. I use Google for pretty much all of my web-based services, assuming they offer something along the lines of what I’m looking for. I use Gmail, Notebook, News, Maps, Groups, Photos (Picasa), Calendar, and I’ve tried a number of their other services. I can also integrate it into my personalized home page (which is my actual home page) and quickly e-mail an item with Gmail. I have been impressed with almost every Google offering, and when I haven’t been impressed, they’ve found another way to impress me later. I’m probably a total fanboy by now.
One of my concerns with switching to the Google offering is that it might not be as reliable as Bloglines has been for me. I’ve had virtually no problems with Bloglines…I see each item once and only once, and visually it looks pretty good. Google might have a slight edge in the looks department, but that’s pretty much a non-issue for me.
So, for the next few days, I’m going to give Google Reader the old college try. I’ll use it with Bloglines simultaneously and try to determine which one updates feeds quicker and generally provides me with a better user experience. So that I can properly test the share feature on GReader, I’m linking to my public reader page, and (even cooler) putting a list of my recent shared items on the right sidebar. I’ve called that section “Read This.”
Now, it’s time to do some browsing.