Mar 14, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Services and Tools
Google announced on Wednesday that Google Reader, the search giant’s RSS aggregator, will be discontinued on July 1st, 2013. Users have until then to export their subscriptions and other data with Google Takeout. This is likely a result of Larry Page’s “leaner Google,” which apparently has room for their ghost town of a social network, but not a service that fits right in with their core mission: cataloging the world’s information.
This is hitting third-party developers pretty hard, as a lot of other services and applications lean on the API. Feedly, for instance, uses it as their entire backend. They’re currently working on a project they call Normandy, which is clone of the Reader API for their own backend, and they plan to allow other developers access to it. Similarly, the developer of Reeder—my preferred RSS aggregator for iOS and OS X—is planning to find a new solution as well. (Unless I’m mistaken, Reeder only uses Google Reader for synchronizing subscriptions and unread items. The iOS version can already use Fever instead of Google Reader.)
For those who are looking for a new solution for reading RSS feeds, there are plenty of options out there. LifeHacker has compiled a few suggestions, both web-based services and desktop clients.
Perhaps the shuttering of Google Reader could be a good thing for developers of feed readers. Torpedoing an industry juggernaut usually does wonders for a field, enabling smaller companies to innovate without the dominant company controlling the market. The RSS reader arena was more lively before Google Reader took off. It would be nice to see a resurgence.
Oct 31, 2012 by Matt | Posted in Services and Tools
Google announced the deprecation and closure of several of their APIs awhile back, notable ones including the Translate API, a few search APIs and the FeedBurner API. As of just a few days ago, the FeedBurner API has been shut down. Any application that requests subscriber information will fail to retrieve the data. This includes custom subscriber count widgets, iPhone apps like Ego, et cetera.
This raises questions about the future of FeedBurner. Is Google planning to shutter the service as well? Coupled with the recent discontinuation of AdSense for Feeds, things not looking too good. If they do end up phasing out FeedBurner, it will break a lot of feed URLs. I’m sure at least three quarters of the feeds in my RSS reader are hosted by FeedBurner. Some transparency would be nice.
May 6, 2011 by Matt | Posted in Software & Scripts
A couple years ago, I heard about an interesting Mac RSS reader in development. Caffeinated, as it was called, sounded like a good alternative to my current feed reader (NewsFire). There were some neat screenshots, but the software was nowhere near ready for release.
After much waiting, the developer has finally released a beta of the application.
It’s very fast, taking only a couple seconds to launch. The interface is slick, particularly the pane that displays the current feed item. Caffeinated does a very good job at formatting the text and resizing images to fit cleanly into the content.
Of course, Reeder is also being beta tested now. Since news of Caffeinated started circulating around the internet, some competitors have shown up. Reeder, in particular, stands out. It will be interesting to see which app comes out of beta first, and how users react.
Caffeinated RSS Reader for Mac Finally Out As Beta [Macstories]
Dec 6, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Featured, Software & Scripts
One of the premier RSS reader apps for the iPhone and iPad is Reeder. It syncs fast, it has a great interface, and it uses Google Reader as a backend (which means you can keep it synchronized with all of your devices).
The much-anticipated Mac version of Reeder is now available in public beta. While some of its features are still being implemented, you can get a good look at what the final application will be like.
The interface looks amazing. I think some of the keyboard shortcuts could use some work, but overall its very usable. I like the narrow column of icons representing the individual feeds. One minor change that would be welcome would be for them to automatically sort by the number of unread items, which I have found makes going through large numbers of items easier in other readers.
Continue reading →
Jul 23, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Blogging
Tired of ever-fluctuating FeedBurner counts being displayed on your blog? Why don’t you just display a weekly average? Cats Who Blog has a tutorial that shows you how you can retrieve the numbers via the FeedBurner API, average them, and display a rounded figure.
Why do the stats fluctuate in the first place? In addition to the occasional FeedBurner flakiness, the service measures the number of feed aggregators that have pinged the feed in a single day. Stats, of both RSS and website page views, tend to be lower on weekends than weekdays, for example.
How to get a more relevant Feedburner count [Cats Who Blog]
Apr 5, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Software & Scripts
Why is it so hard to find a good RSS reader for the iPhone? Sure, there are a few, but not many are as refined as Reeder.
When I first started using Reeder, I thought the interface was pretty good. The only real problem was that Google Reader sync was slow. In version 2, a free upgrade for existing users, that has finally been fixed. It only takes 3-5 seconds to download about 250 unread items. Once that is done, the app starts caching all of the images it can find in the feeds so you can still see them when offline. This takes awhile, but you can still read while it works. (You can turn the feature off if you don’t like it.)
Reeder 2 now offers state-saving functionality, as well. If you exit the app to check your email, Reeder resumes right where you left-off when you come back.
Really, it strikes me as the “Tweetie 2 of RSS readers.” It’s one of the apps that easily earns its spot on page one of my iPod’s home screen.
Now, if only the developer of Newsfire would add Google Reader syncing. Then my feed-reading experience would be excellent.
Oct 2, 2009 by Matt | Posted in Coding
The developers behind the SimplePie RSS parser (the de facto standard for PHP RSS parsing) have announced that they are ending their work developing the project.
…effective immediately, we are ceasing development of SimplePie and shutting down the project. We will shortly be pushing all code to GitHub. The mailing list will continue to serve users for the time being, but my sincerest hope is that someone will take up the charge to fork SimplePie, fix all of its issues, and continue on with this project that’s been such a huge part of my life for the past 5 years.
WP Tavern pointed out that WordPress recently incorporated SimplePie into the core for anything related to RSS parsing (such as Dashboard and sidebar widgets). This means it’s in the WordPress project should definitely be keeping an eye on this issue.
I think that either the SimplePie community needs to take it upon themselves to continue development, or fork the project with long-term intentions. (Perhaps the Automattic people could create a fork and maintain it along with WordPress?)
EDIT: Ryan McCue, an ex developer of SimplePie, has created a new fork and he and Matt Mullenweg are trying to pick up the SimplePie domain name. (Mullenweg has offered to pay for hosting and domain renewals.) So, the short story is: development of SimplePie will continue.
Jul 22, 2009 by Matt | Posted in Coding, Featured
I previously wrote a post about how some blogs are displaying their RSS subscriber and Twitter follower counts. Mac AppStorm is combining their Twitter and RSS counts into one number, and FreelanceSwitch has a section in their footer with separate readouts for RSS, Twitter, and their podcast. Today I’d like to show you how to actually implement such a thing.
We’ll be using PHP and cURL to retrieve the numbers, and then caching them in the database with WordPress’s
update_option() functions, so we don’t slow things down or use-up your Twitter API limit.
Continue reading →
Jan 28, 2009 by Matt | Posted in Services and Tools
As you may already know, Google has set a deadline for you to migrate your feeds over to their new system tied to your Google Account. The move hasn’t been as smooth as it could have been so far, and there has been much criticism over it. I’ve certainly done my fair share of complaining. (My stats were at 20% for several days, and 1and1 complains that the CNAME for MyBrand is too long.)
Mashable was granted an interview with Steve Olechowski, co-founder of FeedBurner turned Google employee. The Q&A session ended with fifteen answers to frequently asked questions about the transition. Sadly, many of my questions have been left unanswered as of yet.
A very large percentage of the blogosphere uses FeedBurner to cache their feeds, so this topic is one to watch. The service fits well into their business, and should open up some interesting opportunities in the future, and quite possibly the widespread adoption of ads in RSS feeds.
Read the full Q&A at Mashable.com.