Developer Interview: Samuel Clay Of NewsBlur, a Google Reader Alternative

TB: Google Reader is not only the default for RSS reading on the web, but it is also built by the mighty Google with virtually unlimited resources. Why go up against them?
SC: I’m lucky that a competitor like Google Reader exists. It means that new users on NewsBlur already have a place to start and can import over OAuth to have a feed reading experience ready in only a few seconds. Also, Reader has done a great job of educating users about what a feed reader is good for. Without Google, NewsBlur would have a lot more difficulty gaining traction.

The truth is that I wanted something better. I never liked using Google Reader (I was a NetNewsWire fan). It didn’t jive with how I read feeds. I don’t follow hundreds and hundreds of sites. I follow a few dozen writers and want to read everything they write. I also follow a few more multi-author category blogs — New York, Tech, Cooking, Art, Photography, Tumblrs, etc. I knew that I wanted to read some of those articles, ignore others, and make it easy to decide between the two. Google Reader has no easy way of making that happen.

TB: I understand that you have open sourced your code. Why did you do that?
SC: Open-source doesn’t have to mean non-profit. I make money with premium accounts — accounts are free up until 64 feeds. Also, feeds are updated more often for premium users (but only for feeds that they are the sole subscriber, otherwise they get the collective benefit of multiple subscribers).

Sure, folks can host their own copy of NewsBlur and keep it up to date but it’s a pain, and I have 7 servers happily chugging away fetching, parsing, storing, and retrieving feeds for you. Hosting is sure worth a lot.

The main idea behind open-sourcing the code is that a community can develop around the API, new features, and user-contributed code. I’ve had a number of pull requests and issues found in the code thanks to NewsBlur’s many talented developer users.

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Romit Mehta

Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is