RSS

Reeder 2.2 for iOS

~Finally~, Reeder for iOS has updated to v2.2, now with background app refresh and a load of other awesome features and fixes. Go get it.

Minor tangent: As much as I enjoy using Jared Sinclair's unique RSS app Unread, I always come back to Reeder. It has a slow development cycle to be sure, but after all these years I still love its sheer speed and simple design. Unless Silvio Rizzi goes out of business, I can't see myself ever needing another RSS app.

Feed Wrangler's First Year

Today is the one-year anniversary of Feed Wrangler, my RSS sync engine of choice. Underscore David Smith shared what it's been like to build such a service from the ground up, summed up thusly:

“I have learned more in the last 12 months about web services than I ever did in my preceding 10 years of web development.”

I'm still quite happy with my choice in signing up for Feed Wrangler, and I hope it sees continued success in the future. Congrats on the first year, David!

Designing Unread for iPad

Last night, Jared Sinclair announced that he will be releasing a version of Unread for iPad, and that he will be documenting the design process in a series of videos. He has provided an RSS feed for anyone who wants to follow along.

The first and second videos are up, and I already like where things are headed.

Unread for iPhone

Unread, a new RSS app developed by Jared Sinclair (who also developed the excellent Riposte for App.net), has just been unveiled to the world. I'm apparently one of the few people on Earth who didn't get into the beta, so I don't have an official review written like my friends Federico Viticci, Shawn Blanc, and Stephen Hackett do. (I'm not bitter or anything.)

Even so, I'm already enjoying my experience with Unread in the short amount of time I've had to play with it, and I look forward to testing it a lot more.

The special launch price is only $2.99, so get it while it's hot.

Reeder 2 is Now Available for iPhone and iPad

The wait is ~*finally*~ over. You can now pick up Reeder 2 from the iOS App Store for only $5, and it works on both iPhone and iPad. The previous iPhone version of Reeder already supported Feed Wrangler – my RSS service of choice – but this update also brings Feed Wrangler support to the iPad.

I've sorely missed being able to use Reeder on my iPad, and it feels good to have it back. My initial impression (after only 10 minutes of playing with it) is very positive, other than that it took a long time to sync my Feed Wrangler Smart Streams.

And as always, Federico Viticci published his review of Reeder 2 immediately after the app was available for purchase. Go check it out.

FeedPress Introduces Dropbox Integration

FeedPress, my RSS feed provider of choice, has announced an awesome new thing: your feed subscriber/reader stats can now be exported to a plain text file in Dropbox on an automatic, daily basis.

The text file even breaks down the RSS readers and services people are using to read your content. Pretty cool.

Some Options for Backing Up Your Google Reader Subscriptions

Well folks, this is it — the last weekend before Google reader shuts down for good. By now, you've probably already chosen a new RSS setup to get you through this tragic time, but you should still go ahead and back up your Google Reader data while you've still got a chance.

Luckily, there are several ways to do that:

A Better Look for Feed Wrangler

feedwrangler.jpg

I've been trying out Feed Wrangler over the last 12 hours or so, and I'm mostly loving it so far, but I agree with the general consensus that the web interface isn't the prettiest thing around. Now, this is totally understandable since it was more important for David Smith to get the thing off the ground first, but it doesn't change the fact that the UI could use a little polish.

Thankfully, Preshit Deorukhkar – the lovely man who runs the Beautiful Pixels blog – has come up with some nifty tools for improving the overall look of the UI. The first is a Safari extension called Feed Rango, and the other is merely a set of CSS rules to accomplish the same task. Personally, I'm using the CSS rules in a Chrome extension called Stylish.

[Update: Feed Rango is now available as a Chrome extension. I'll be switching to that from the CSS rules shortly.]

I'm sure that Feed Wrangler will inevitably get a redesign at some point, but my thanks goes to Preshit for making the current experience a lot more enjoyable.

'Making the NetNewsWire 4 App Icon'

nnw-4-icon.jpg

John Marstall, designer for Black Pixel, details the steps that went into the design of NetNewsWire 4's new app icon, the beta of which I linked to on Tools & Toys the other day:

“With the release of NetNewsWire 4 Public Beta, we wanted to overhaul and modernize NetNewsWire’s app icon as much as the rest of the app. We didn’t throw out everything — the color scheme and satellite metaphor stayed — but the design is completely new.”

I love how much thought and care went into the design (and it certainly doesn't hurt that they're sticking with the astronomy theme).

'Inside Digg's Race to Build the New Google Reader'

Mat Honan went behind the scenes at Digg to get the story on their new RSS reader, which is said to be releasing next week:

“McLaughlin is talking about the future of Digg Reader, the project he and his small team of fifteen have been working on for the past month. Right now it’s just a mess of code, Keynote sides, and shit on a whiteboard. They need to turn it into a real product, one to take the place of Google Reader, which shuts down on July 1. They have less than 60 days. Simultaneously, the same team of five engineers is working to integrate another product–Instapaper–that they’ve just purchased. None of this is top secret, the opposite in fact. Digg publicly promised the world to have a replacement ready in time. They had to move fast. And when you move fast, things get fucked up.”

A few months ago, I never would have imagined that any product with 'Digg' in the title could possibly be interesting, but now I'm actually looking forward to checking Digg Reader out. It certainly sounds like they've put an impressive amount of effort into the project.

Feedly Cloud

From the Feedly blog:

“Feedly cloud is now live, providing a fast and scalable infrastructure to seamlessly replace Google Reader. Feedly cloud also comes with a completely stand-alone Web version of feedly, that works with all major browsers. Finally, we are please to announce the first nine applications built on feedly cloud, that allow you to expand your feedly experience.”

With only 10 days left until Google Reader bites the dust, this is great news indeed. Feedly has been one of my top choices for Reader alternatives (especially since Reeder supports it), and I'm glad that they're working to make the transition as painless as possible.

Relatedly, IFTTT just announced a Feedly channel.

URI.LV is now FeedPress

A couple months ago, I switched from Squarespace's built-in RSS feed to one provided by the service URI.LV. Today, they've announced a change in names, and are now calling themselves FeedPress.

From the announcement:

“As we’ve grown, it’s high time we re-launched and re-branded. URI.LV was intended to be a temporary name. It simply does not roll off the tongue easily. Today, we’re exceedingly happy to present to you FeedPress. We have spruced up the website and have given it a responsive design. If you visit your stats page on a smartphone, it should flow nicely. For iOS users, you can tap your bookmark button and add FeedPress to your home screen (it sports a nice Retina ready icon).”

I like the new name a lot better.

This shouldn't cause any issues with my RSS feed, but let me know if you see anything weird and I'll get it taken care of.

New RSS Feed

Hey guys, just a quick update about the Unretrofied RSS feed. I've set up a new feed over at URI.LV, an awesome service that was built as an alternative to Feedburner (which is likely to die soon, if Google Reader is any indication). Here's the new feed url:

http://unretrofied.com/feed

Why do this? A few reasons:

  • Squarespace still has yet to re-implement RSS tracking. I say 're-implement' because it was a supported feature during the Squarespace 6 beta (and also existed in Squarespace 5) before being dropped.
  • The old feed URL was ugly and more difficult to remember (http://unretrofied.com/blog?format=rss)
  • I want a feed I can control, not one provided by my webhost.

I would appreciate it if you would update your RSS reader to use this new feed, although you don't necessarily have to at the moment. As long as I'm on Squarespace 6, the previous feed will work as it always has. But I may decide to move this site elsewhere someday, and if you update to the new feed now, any future transitions should hopefully be smoother for you as a reader.

Thanks!

'Free Works'

Marco Arment makes some more excellent points about the Google Reader shutdown:

“And we lucked out with Reader — imagine how much worse it would be if website owners weren’t publishing open RSS feeds for anyone to fetch and process, but were instead posting each item to a proprietary Google API. We’d have almost no chance of building a successful alternative.

That’s Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. (Does the shutdown make more sense now?)”

While I agree with Marco that the internet is generally better off for having had Reader around, and I'm also optimistic that a fine solution will someday replace it, I think the way Google handled this was a bit dickish.

They swept in with a free product, practically took over the RSS industry with it (which likely put some other developers out of work), never bothered to monetize the product, then unceremoniously dropped it years later like a bad habit.

I would say it's analagous to Starbucks single-handedly snuffing out thousands of smaller coffee chains around the world, but at least they had the sense to charge for their product and are so far sticking around as a result.

'Three Months to Scale NewsBlur'

The last few days have been pretty intense for Samuel Clay, developer of NewsBlur. 60,000 new people have signed up for his service, 5,000 of which have become premium subscribers. This is more than double the previous number of 50,000 users. Incredible.

I've been checking out NewsBlur myself (using the live demo at the link above), and it looks fantastic. Once he has the scaling issue figured out, it might just be amongst the next group of killer RSS services.

'Why I Love RSS and You Do Too'

Brent Simmons, the creator of NetNewsWire, lists some reasons why RSS is still so great even today. You should head over there and read all of it, but I especially thought the two items concerning "Twitter as RSS" were great:

  • There are no user caps. No company can tell your favorite app how many users it can have. (Twitter does this.)

  • Nobody can tell you how to display an article from an RSS feed. (Twitter does this with tweets.)

'Baby Steps Toward Replacing Google Reader'

Marco Arment wants someone to get another solid RSS syncing backend going before Google shuts down in a few months:

“We need to start simple. We don’t have much time. And if we don’t do it this way, the likely alternative is that a few major clients will make their own custom sync solutions that won’t work with any other company’s clients, which won’t bring them nearly as much value as it will remove from their users.”

The idea he lays out in the rest of his article seems feasible enough to me.

This is one of those times I wish I had the programming chops to take advantage of a huge opportunity like this, but like Marco says, there's just not enough time. We'll have to rely on someone who already knows this stuff in and out to get the job done. And who better than the devs behind NetNewsWire and Reeder, right?

Google Reader is Shutting Down

If you're like me, you've probably already heard from a hundred different sources about Google Reader shutting down on July 1st, something they listed almost offhandedly amongst other announcements. A rather anticlimactic end for such a beloved service, I think.

Obviously this is sad news for those of us who've come to depend on the service over the years, but it's not all gloom and doom the way some people are making it out to be!

The nice thing about RSS as a format is that it's an open standard that can be used by anyone. As I tweeted earlier this evening, and what Marco Arment later agreed with, is that this is the perfect time for somebody to rise up and take Google Reader's place. Google, perhaps unintentionally, just opened up a market they never managed to capitalize on themselves.

I feel confident that many tech nerds like myself would gladly pay a reasonable fee to access such a service, provided the following:

  • It acts as a syncing "backbone" that any RSS app can use, and with a simple login scheme.
  • It allows users to easily import/export OPML files without making them jump through any hoops.
  • It has a solid web app (shouldn't be too hard to beat Google Reader on this one).
  • The developer actively updates it.
  • Fantastic support for 3rd-party services (Twitter, Evernote, 1Password, etc).
  • Can be used to generate and track RSS feeds (this one might be a stretch but I'm thinking of a combination of Reader and Feedburner, another Google failure).

Of course, all of this assumes the user is even interested in sticking with RSS rather than simply following their favorite sites on Twitter or App.net. This is certainly a plausible alternative but I've never been a big fan of it myself. I prefer to keep these two types of reading activities separate — it's just easier for me to manage everything that way. Twitter lists are a step in the right direction here, but the service itself just isn't ideal for reading web content. Yet.

Personally, I'm thinking about setting up a Fever server to host my RSS feeds, partially after some encouragement from Nate Boateng but also because it's supposedly easy to get up-and-running, even for lazy people like myself. It certainly doesn't hurt that the iPhone version of Reeder (my go-to RSS app) supports it, or that it has features far beyond what Reader is capable of.

There are also a couple of other nice-looking contenders springing up: FeedWrangler, a project by David Smith, and Newsblur, which I intend to sign up for. More are sure to come.

I think that the next several months should prove to be very interesting with Google out of the way. There are some serious business opportunities to be seized on, which will benefit all of us, both as customers and as fans of new ideas in technology.