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

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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’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:

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feedly-shortcuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Comments (13)
  • Flowreader

    Flowreader from http:www.flowreader.com is a great replacement, brings both web news and social accounts feeds, allows sharing and posting in one’s Twitter, Google+ directly from its page.

  • 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?

    • 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).

  • 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??

    • Erez Zukerman

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

  • 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 !!

  • 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.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.