When Google Reader died in 2013, some people thought that RSS would die with it. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the numbers show that RSS is still alive and will remain that way for years to come.
Plenty of alternatives to Google Reader have sprung up since its demise, but many of them are packed with too many features. Others, like Feedly, are still popular despite some shady history. But what if you want something simpler? A reader that delivers news without any distractions?
That’s when we turn to minimalistic RSS readers, which may not be so popular but are definitely worth trying. Here are a few that might work well for you.
Miniflux is a relatively young RSS reader, having first debuted in March 2013 to little fanfare. Since then, it has received regular updates on a quasi-monthly basis and subsequently looks a lot more polished and usable while keeping to its minimal philosophy.
And minimal it is. Take one glance and you’ll see that Miniflux isn’t kidding around. It’s sparse and straightforward — almost barren in some parts — yet designed in such a way that doesn’t intrude on the actual news-reading process.
Check out the demo to see it for yourself.
Miniflux boasts a responsive design that adapts depending on your viewing device. It also provides a bookmarklet that makes subscribing to a feed as easy as clicking a button. Other goodies include importing and exporting in the OPML format, multiple themes, no social network support (to respect your privacy), and automatic ad removal.
All of this is free and open source. The only downside — depending on how you look at it — is that you need to host it yourself. Fortunately, the installation instructions are simple and easy to follow.
Go Read [No Longer Available]
Like Miniflux, Go Read is relatively young. It launched just before Google Reader and started off by marketing itself as a Google Reader clone. Once you log into Go Read for the first time, you’ll realize that “clone” is the perfect descriptor.
It looks nearly identical to what Google Reader looked like.
Which, to be honest, is great. Google Reader was fast, easy to navigate, and the model design for what a web RSS reader should be. If Go Read wants to base themselves on a design that’s already tried and true, I can’t fault them for it.
To get it as minimal as possible, all you have to do is toggle into List View, enable the feature that hides all empty feeds and folders, and enable the feature that marks as read as you scroll through. Once done, keeping up with your news is as quick as scrolling down the page.
As for pricing, Go Read is both free and not free. It’s open source software so you can download it and host it yourself for no charge. However, to use Go Read’s hosted RSS service, it’ll cost $3 per month or $30 per year. New accounts start with a 30-day free trial.
Feedbin is yet another minimalistic RSS reader that started around the same time as Google Reader’s demise. This one has a lofty mission that almost seems impossible to fulfill: the perfect balance between simplicity, performance, and user experience.
Use it for a few minutes, however, and you’ll see that they’re pretty darn close to reaching that goal.
What I love about Feedbin is that it’s a web app that feels like a desktop app. The design itself is clean, intuitive, and such a joy to work with. Nothing feels “in the way”, so to speak. Plus, it’s minimal without being barebones, and that’s beautiful in its own way.
Simply put, Feedbin is awesome. If you’re thinking of switching to it, migration is simple. Just upload your OPML file and you’re done.
Like Go Read, Feedbin is both free and not free. You can install it yourself without charge or you can let Feedbin host it for you, which will cost $3 per month or $30 per year. They provide a 14-day free trial so you can get your feet wet before committing to a subscription.
We’ve covered the lightweight RSS reader CommaFeed before, which has promised a bloat-free experience since its inception in 2013. While CommaFeed has had its ups and downs over the years — including a period of constant outage due to growing pains — it’s still around.
Originally designed as a Google Reader replacement, it has since taken on a style and direction of its own, leading it towards a design that’s even more pared down than Google Reader ever was.
I’ve had reservations against this web app for a while, mostly because I’ve had poor experiences with it every time I decided to give it a shot. Well, color me surprised when I gave it one more try and actually walked away impressed.
Not that there’s anything particularly extraordinary about CommaFeed. In fact, it’s about as standard as it gets for web RSS readers. However, what’s great about it is that it just works. The design wastes no space, adds no unnecessary flairs, yet keeps it lively with a healthy dash of color.
If you ever get sick of the minimalism, you can add your own custom CSS styles to personalize the look-and-feel however you wish.
CommaFeed can be self-hosted or you can let CommaFeed host your feeds for you. Either way, it’s completely free. It’s also open source in case you want to dig through the code.
Last up we have Digg Reader, which has no relation to the new Digg which was unveiled back in 2012. While the Digg brand has certainly lost a lot of its luster, don’t let that turn you away from Digg Reader. This RSS reader is actually quite good.
In fact, out of all the minimalist RSS readers on this list, I’d have to say that Digg Reader comes out on top as the winner.
Like the previous readers we’ve explored, Digg Reader doesn’t offer anything unique or extraordinary — and that’s fine because it isn’t meant to have any shiny bells or whistles. That’s the whole point of a minimalistic web app, isn’t it?
So why do I like it so much?
Because it manages to walk the thin line of “stripped down but not bare”, particularly in the aesthetics department. There’s hardly any color, yet it doesn’t feel bland. The layout is as simple as it gets — a left pane and a main area — but doesn’t feel lacking.
But best of all, it’s blazingly fast. Even on this old laptop of mine, which tends to stutter on web apps like this, Digg Reader is as smooth as can be. Minimalism and performance should go hand-in-hand, so Digg Reader earns a lot of points for that.
Digg Reader is completely free to use. Check out our Digg Reader review for a deeper look at this wonderful RSS reader.
Which RSS Reader Do You Use?
There are a lot of RSS readers out there. Feedly is a favorite for many while others may prefer to go mobile with these Android RSS apps or these iPad RSS apps. But for me, web RSS is the way to go — and minimalism is non-negotiable when all you want to do is get through your daily feeds.
Digg Reader is my choice. Hopefully this list helps you pick a favorite of your own.
Do you use any of these RSS readers? If not, which one do you use? Are these too minimal for you? What are some crucial features of RSS readers that you can’t live without? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!