Somewhat ironically, Feedly might be at least indirectly responsible for Google Reader’s shutdown. It’s been around for quite a while, but Feedly doesn’t actually run its own RSS aggregator. Instead, it’s simply a front end that accesses your feeds in Google Reader via an undocumented and apparently private API. They have recently announced that they are writing their own RSS aggregator backend, and will have it deployed in time to seamlessly switch over when Google turns off Reader.
A curious result of their use of the private Google Reader API is that Feedly isn’t actually an application hosted on a web page. Instead, it requires installation into your browser as an extension, available for Firefox and Chrome. This is an issue to me, as I regularly switch browsers—and interesting hardware like my ebook reader simply can’t use it at all.
At first glance, it certainly is prettier than Google Reader ever was:
And it is quite full featured, and can be configured to replicate my preferred view from Google Reader: only show unread, with oldest messages first. There’s minor bugs in various places—e.g. if I have no unread articles, it will instead show a seemingly random set of previously read articles—but they seem responsive to user feedback. They haven’t switched away from the Google Reader backend yet, so how well they will scale is still an unknown.
The layout at the moment is somewhat annoying; the narrow columns cause some images—comics in particular—to be rescaled at smaller than original size, making text difficult to read. I suspect that advertising will grow at some point, although they may offer a paid subscription service in the future. One curious thing is that they hope to open up their backend (which has a Google Reader compatible API) to allow other services to use it!
Feedly is nice, but the requirement for browser extensions and special mobile applications is somewhat limiting. I’m still searching for the perfect Google Reader replacement…