Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

Now that Google Reader is but a distant memory, the fight for the future of RSS is truly on. One of the most notable products fighting the good fight is Feedly, a powerful RSS reader about which David Pogue of the New York Times quipped, “Feedly is what you needly.” We’ve reviewed Feedly’s Firefox add-on, and even its iOS app way back in 2011.

Google Reader wasn’t an app or an add-on: It lived purely on the Web, so today I’ll be looking at Feedly Cloud, a browser-based RSS reader that requires no external tools to use. We first reported about it as it went live¬†on June 19, but now’s the time to take a good, long look at it.

Claim to Fame: What Feedly Promises

feedly01   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

Feedly’s product tour touts several key features:

  • All in one place: Feedly’s home to all of your blogs, news sites, podcasts, and YouTube channels, and also lets you easily migrate from Google Reader.
  • Productive: You get multiple layout options, auto-marking items as read, tagging, sharing, and keyboard shortcuts.
  • Blazing fast: Feedly claims to transform websites into “pocket-size cards” which load quickly and are easy to read.
  • Smarter sharing: I know we already spoke of sharing under Productive, but Feedly’s tour makes a point of it. You get Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Evernote, and LinkedIn, along with Buffer, Pocket, and Instapaper support.
  • Desktop, phone, and tablet: Feedly has apps; but we won’t be looking at those.

I won’t be running through each and every one of these points in detail, because frankly, that would be boring. I’ll tell you what I care about: Productivity and speed, and sharing. So, let’s look at those in further detail.

Productivity and Speed

For most nerds, productivity is synonymous with keyboard shortcuts — avoiding your mouse makes you incredibly productive, as we all know. Let’s start with those, then:

feedly shortcuts   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

The list of keyboard shortcuts Feedly offers is not nearly as exhaustive as the ones Gmail has (just hit ? in an open Gmail window to see what I mean), but it gets the job done well. You get shortcuts for quickly hopping between articles and feeds, marking feeds as read, and so on. But what’s this “magic bar” that gg goes to? I’m glad you asked:

feedly magicbar   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

It doesn’t look like much, but the magic bar is a quick-navigation tool. Start typing x, and the list you see above narrows down to this:

feedly magicbar2   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

In other words, a super-fast way to navigate feeds with specific names, without having to futz about with the sidebar menu.

And yes, in case you like the sidebar, it exists:

feedly sidebar   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

When it comes to consuming news, productivity is about navigating your feeds (which we’ve just looked at), as well as about how quickly you consume the content that’s in those feeds. Most of us just want to get in there, tear at those headlines like rabid news consumers, and get back out again until our next bout of procrastination (or “research”). That means the information has to be laid out in a way that can be easily scanned and processed. Easier said than done: Some feeds consist mainly of images (Flickr), while some are text-heavy, and some have mainly videos (YouTube). If that’s not enough, different people just read differently.

Feedly rises to the challenge with no less than four different layouts:

feedly views   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

From left to right, you get Title Only view, Magazine view, Cards view, and Full Article view. Out of these four, Magazine View and Cards view are worth elaborating on. Here’s Magazine View:

feedly magazine   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

So you get a featured image next to each piece, along with a title and an excerpt. Very easy to scan and see if you want to dig deeper.

Cards view looks like this:

feedly cards   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

To me, this is a good view for image-heavy sources, like the Flickr blog you see above. When you click an item, it opens in an overlay. Other neat layout features include the option to hide categories with no update, and the fact categories retain their open/close states across sessions. Last but not least, Feedly can curate and feature articles based on how popular they are on Google+ and Facebook, if you’re into that sort of crowd-based filtering.

Feedly is not without its quirks, however: For Flickr, it showed me many duplicate versions of the same article using different languages — something other RSS readers (such as NewsBlur) are clever enough not to do.

The final word on productivity and speed: Feedly is responsive, and offers many different ways to view and navigate your content.

Sharing

If sharing is caring, Feedly offers heaps of caring for you to bestow on friends and random online strangers who happen to follow you along the Web’s main social venues. From left to right, you get:

feedly sharing   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Then there’s Buffer, plain old email (although there’s an issue with this at the time of this writing) and finally, options to save the article for later, and tag it. The Google Plus button is tightly integrated with Feedly, opening a G+ sharing dialog right on the page itself. Buffer is similarly polished, popping up a beautiful overlay. The other sharing features appear as clunky browser pop-up windows — not as pleasant, but they work.

Then there’s this, on the other side of the article:

image   Feedly, Reviewed: What Makes It Such A Popular Google Reader Replacement?

From left to right, you get to save the item to Evernote, Instapaper, Pocket, and Delicious. There’s Pinterest support, too: Just hover over an image to pin it on Pinterest. I wish they offered saving to some of the nicer bookmarking alternatives like Pinboard as well, but alas, you will have to make do with this IFTTT workflow if you want to save content to your Pinboard.

Final Thoughts

Feedly is a mature, fleshed-out product, with a thoroughly modern UI and robust sharing features. It’s no wonder it is one of the leading Google Reader alternatives, but really, you should look at it as its own thing – a powerful online news reader. If you haven’t settled in on a news reader you really like yet, you should check it out.

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12 Comments -

0 votes

Ned

I have been experimenting with feedly as well as inoreader. While I have been generally satisfied with feedly, two items bother me.

First, and most seriously, I’m not at all certain feedly is getting all of the articles in some of the feeds as I compare between it and other feeds (I don’t know if Google reader did either; never had any reason to compare before). It seems that articles don’t appear in feedly that appear in other readers – and vice versa. I KNOW for a fact it missed all of the articles in one feed for a 24 hour period that all showed up in inoreader (which at times only grabs 20 articles of the sometimes 100+ released once per day for that feed and no amount of refreshing grabs the rest.)

Second, and less serious, feedly with its grayed-out sidebar is sometimes hard to read. I’d prefer an option to keep the feeds with no unread items normal with feeds with unread items some other color – as inoreader does. It is much easier for old people like me to see.

1 votes

Linda

Thank you for this great article!

Two things:

re: Ned’s comment about not receiving all articles in a feed, I felt the same way and tweeted my concern. Feedly tweeted back and asked me to contact them via email. They told me that “This is a feed by feed problem and we are getting at it everyday. If you catch one specific feed that has an issue feel free to shoot me an email so I can look at it and fix it :)” Feedly is very responsive!

Something I’d really like to see is an overall keyword search of articles, which was possible in Google Reader. Having this kind of search would make Feedly perfect!

0 votes

Vrancken R

i would like feedly giving us the possibility to search in the history of the rss feeds

0 votes

Daniel E

Darn, really should hit that ‘?’ more often :)

One thing, though, and I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced this — Preview doesn’t quite work with MUO, the window just comes up empty. No big deal, I just open the article in a new tab, just that a preview would be so much more convenient.

Google Chrome 23.0.1271.64 (Official Build 165188)
OS Linux
WebKit 537.11 (@132838)
JavaScript V8 3.13.7.5
Flash 11.5.31.2

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

Interesting issue… I must say I didn’t have the same problem. Did you contact their support?

0 votes

Daniel E

No need, it somehow fixed itself :)

0 votes

Me

Its great features aside, I have 2 big issues with Feedly:

1) Despite having millions of users at this point, Feedly still does not have an official, up-to-date privacy policy and TOS freely available on their website. So I don’t trust them with my data until that is resolved.

2) Feedly still requires Google OAuth for login. More OAuth options are reportedly on their way later this summer, but like many others I prefer not having to link an unrelated account to my Feedly account. This is also a potential privacy/security issue.

0 votes

CP

Am surprised… that none of the reviews or even the people that use Feedly are concerned about the permissions it requires to get started!! Trusting a completely unknown company with my browsing data and personal information – is a show stopper to begin with !!

0 votes

Nuno

My feedly currently running on my galaxy s3 doesn’t fetch any articles when in mobile data connection. Is there anyone with this problem ??
There are also reported problems with the email handling in the chrome pc interface regarding mailto links handling. What does your user experience tells you about??

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

I must say I didn’t encounter either of these issues… Did you talk to Feedly tech support?

0 votes

Caroline W

“..You should check it out..” – Definitely!

I have always used Feedly and I love almost everything about it. I like the choice of layouts, of which there are 4-6 (I forget). And it is very prompt in bringing you up to speed with the latest articles. You can customize that part too with various options.

I understand how many folk became upset at Googles decision but give Feedly a try, stick with it, get used to it and its functions and maybe you’ll come to love it as much as I do. It is a good reader. I’m just wondering why there are not many rival feed readers out?

0 votes

Erez Zukerman

It mainly has to do with monetization: It is not easy to run a whole company around a feed reader, it being a relatively niche product. One model that works is the “superstar developer” – one guy who does it all, like NewsBlur (a rival service profitably run by a single person).