The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Finally, Fever: A Replacement for Google Reader

I’ve written a couple of posts about the impending demise of Google Reader, and my search for a new reader. Well, after a few false starts, I think the search is finally over. I’ve settled on a replacement for Google Reader.

Actually, I shouldn’t say that I’ve settled. I’ve finally found a reader I really like. It replaces Google Reader, does everything I need a Reader to do.

My reader of choice is Fever. It’s the brainchild of Shaun Inman, the developer behind Mint.

Apparently, Fever has been around for a while, but until the news that Google Reader was on death watch I hadn’t heard about it. When I did learn about it, after searching for a new RSS reader, I filed it away in the back of my mind for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s a server application. Now, I’m no stranger to installing applications on servers. I’ve set up WordPress more times than I care to remember, and installed other content management systems. But I worried that installing a RSS reader on a server might be biting off a bit more than I could chew — especially if it involved setting up a “cron job,” to better automate updating feeds.

Second, there’s a $30 licensing fee. Now, I’m not adverse to paying for a product or service I’m going to get a lot of use out of. I subscribe to several “premium” web services, because I decided what they offered was worth paying for. (As a general rule, though, if I only pay for one service per category. That is, since I’m already a premium subscriber to Evernote, I’m not going to pay for a similar service like Google Keep. And since I was really just trying out services, I was reluctant to start adding more monthly fees to my expenses.

But then, well, things changed. I tried a few different services.

I tried Feedly, and initially there was a lot to like about Feedly. First, it was free (at least in the beginning). It synched with Google Reader, and offered a safe place for my feeds when Reader finally went belly up. And it offered many features similar to Google Reader. Plus, the development of its promised “Normandy” RSS engine gave me some hope that eventually my favorite desktop/mobile RSS app might sync with it, as it did with Google Reader.

But, things changed. Feedly gained 500,000 new users in 48 hours after Google announced that Reader would die. Then later it gained about 3 million new users, and with that influx came outages. And then I noticed that with every Feedly update, more and more features were disappearing. The ability to search my Feedly feeds hit the hardest. Suddenly, I could no longer search within my feeds, or saved and tagged items for specific words and phrases, as I usually do when researching posts, etc. Search results only yielded more blogs and sites I could subscribe to.

When I took to Feedly’s support forum, I eventually found out why the features that drew me to Feedly were disappearing. Feedly is going “Freemium.”

Most importantly, perhaps, Feedly is finally talking publicly about its business model. And yes, it will ask some users to pay.

“We’ve been asked the question of Feedly’s viability a lot recently,” Moutran says. “We have heard from a significant proportion of our users that they would be willing to pay for Feedly. They love and depend on our service, and want to make sure Feedly will be there in the future,” he tells us. “We have also heard from our power users that they would like deeper integration with other services they use and pay for, like Evernote and Dropbox. We intend to launch a premium version of Feedly this year on a subscription basis that would include new features for power users.”

Moutran also notes that Feedly has been working with publishers on efforts that would allow its users to discover, purchase and access premium content, such as those behind “paywalls,” or only available on a subscription basis, for example

Now, I’m not mad at Feedly for making that move. After all, they’ve got to stay in business, pay for servers, make payroll, etc. But at that point I was a little miffed that the features that drew me to Feedly had been stripped out, and that I’d have to wait for them to return sometime later this year in a premium version.

I had two main problems with this. First, I have need of these features now. Yes, they’re still available in Google Reader, but I’ve already cut ties with Reader. I almost never log into my Reader account anymore, because there doesn’t seem to be much of a point. It’s not going to be there much longer, so why bother? Better to move on. But I want something that’s “move-in ready,” with plenty of room for me to arrange my “stuff.”

Second, there aren’t any external apps I know of that synch with Feedly. I don’t always work in the browser. Actually, I prefer to do most of my reading and writing outside of the browser. I grab stuff to read and sort through offline, and synch it with various services. (I’m a working parent, so I do a lot on the go.)

And if I’m going to have to pay for the features I want, I’d rather start now. Why wait, if I need those features now? I’d rather go to an existing service that offers them now.

When the news came down about Reader, I was relieved to learn than my favorite mobile/desktop RSS app — Reederwould not die with Google Reader, but that development of Reeder would continue after Reader’s demise. What’s more Reeder will be integrating other services. The iPhone version already supports Fever, and will add support for Feedbin. The developer also promised that Reeder for iPad and Reeder for Mac would get all the updates in the iPhone version.

At this point, I’d pretty much decided I would subscribe to a service. And since I wanted to continue using Reeder, it would be either Fever or Feedbin for now. Feedbin is only $2.00 a month, and appears to have a lot to offer. But I was reluctant to subscribe to another service.

At this point, I was less intimidated by server apps. I’d installed Tiny Tiny RSS successfully, but was underwhelmed with its look and features. I kept it as a last-resort backup plan; a place for my feeds to live if I couldn’t find a home for them elsewhere. It was less than perfect, mainly because no application I knew of synched with it. But I liked the idea of having it on my own server, because there’s less of a chance it can disappear on me if some corporate internet entity decides to pull the plug. (I can always move it to another server, etc.)

I took another look at Fever. The demo video impressed me, and since I wouldn’t be charged a licensing fee until I’d successfully installed it on my server, I decided to give it a try. In a few minutes, I had it installed. A few minutes later I’d imported my feeds, and started customizing Fever to share with services I was still waiting for Feedly to add to its service.

After that, I was pretty much sold.

That’s not to say that I’ve got everything I had with Reader and wanted in something new. Inman pointed out on his blog that Fever is not designed to match Reader feature-for-feature. Along those lines, it doesn’t archive feed content; something I did a lot of in Reader, by tagging articles, etc. But I’d already begun shifting that function to services like Readability (for timeshifting news articles of interest, to read later), Pocket (for archiving and organizing research for writing posts, etc.), and Instapaper (for long-form articles I want to read whenever).

It’s only been a few days, but I’m happy enough with Fever that it’s going to be my Reader replacement of choice. It does everything I need it to do, and works or soon will work on just about every platform I use. As a server application, it might not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but it works for me. Barring some unforeseen event, I’m staying with it.

I’ve finally replaced Google Reader, and I’m not looking back.

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