So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]

What is not replaced yet

I have realized through this project un-Google that most of the Google products are easily replaceable, but there are some products which do not have a good replacement yet. I list them below, with a quick explanation why I think they cannot be replaced yet.


There are three key features of Google Reader which make it impossible to be replaced:

  • Web-based RSS reader: Google Reader is web-based, so you are not forced to keep your read/unread status in sync between computers. Also, because it is web-based, you don’t have to install an application if you switch PC’s. The application as well as the data is in the cloud, making it very easy to move between computers.
  • PubSubHubBub support: This protocol allows for websites to push their updates to Google Reader via a publish/subscribe mechanism, making refreshes extremely fast for sites which support this protocol and for clients which can understand it. Google Reader understands this protocol so a lot of feeds update much quicker on Google Reader than other RSS readers.
  • Clients on any device/platform: I follow about 175 feeds, so it is important that I am able to triage my feeds fast and from as many places as possible. Granted, one of the advantages of being a web-based reader is that I can log in from anywhere and triage, but when I am on the go, it is better to do this on a mobile phone where I prefer a native app. Google Reader clients are available in various forms on all mobile platforms, so no matter which smartphone I buy, I would be able to go through my feeds very quickly, and be in sync with the web version.

I have not found a credible alternative to Google Reader. A popular web-based reader is Netvibes which is catered to casual RSS consumer with its dashboardemphasis and magazine layouts. I like to power through my feeds, so Netvibes seemed very slow to me. I also tried My Yahoo! and My MSN but those are also catered to the casual user and of course they don’t have great mobile versions to read on the go. There is also no way to just mark one article as read, or share just one article on such services.

Update: I just came across a very promising web-based service called NewsBlur. It has a neat interface, seems quite fast (faster than Netvibes but slower than Google Reader because it is not as minimalistic as Google Reader) and has sharing options to share articles with twitter, Facebook and Instapaper/Read It Later. It also has an iPhone app in beta, an Android app being built by a third party developer and to my pleasant surprise, a Windows Phone app being built by another third party developer. This service allows 64 feeds for free and has a premium version which goes for $1/month, $2/month or $3/month (donation-ware). I am going to actively try this service and see if it can replaced my RSS consumption, at least on a PC, for now. So far, I am really liking it.

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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