About a week ago, I declared a free-for-all in the competition for my feed reader of choice. Now, I get to declare a winner, and as the headline suggests, it’s Google Reader.
So, what makes Google Reader better than Bloglines?
- Updating on the fly – Bloglines updates your feeds while you read as well, but it does something very naughty when you click on a category or individual feed…it marks everything as read automatically. So, if you have a browser issue or need to be interrupted while you’re reading, you pretty much lose it if you’ve opened a category without reading everything. While it’s annoying to have to click in the reading pane to get Google Reader to mark things as read, it’s nice that it only marks them as read when you’ve actually read them.
- Stars – There are ways to save items in Bloglines, but none are as intuitive as the Gmail-like star in Google Reader. If I want to blog about something later (like that Rush Limbaugh post) or just file away a handy hint from Lifehacker or Slashdot, I can star it and have it ready for me later.
- Integration with other Google services – I know this is Google’s intention with programs like Google Reader, but I don’t have a problem buying in. As these services keep improving, the integration with services like Gmail, Google Talk, and the search engine itself is increasingly handy.
- Better layout options – I can choose to display only the updated feeds in Google Reader, and I can file feeds under multiple tags/categories.
- Better RSS support – Some feeds don’t display well in Bloglines, especially Blogger and WordPress sites with images, videos and tricky formatting. Since Google owns Blogger and Youtube, both have seamless integration in Google Reader, which is a welcome change from Bloglines.
- Better Firefox integration – For a while, Bloglines was awesome because they had a Firefox extension that allowed you to see how many unread items you had, and with one click, you could jump in and read them. Google Reader now offers the same support, while Bloglines has neglected theirs (thank you, open Google APIs). A point that formerly went to Bloglines now goes the way of Google.
One downside to Google reader so far has been its unreliability compared to Bloglines. About once per day, Google Reader has locked up on me and either prevented me from accessing a feed/category or failed to properly mark an item as read. In the end, I haven’t lost anything, and these hiccups have been both minor and temporary.
It’s worth noting that Bloglines is owned by Ask.com, which is trying desperately to compete with Google in a lot of areas. They’ve run ads about their better search engine (which I tend to doubt, at least for now), and they also have a formidable map client in AskCity (which I actually really like). I just don’t have the confidence in them that I do in Google to keep making things better in the long run. So, Google Reader is my choice until further notice. If you’re not already using it, consider this my recommendation.