Feedly in a coffee shopI was on a bus in London on Friday, on my way to a meeting at City University, when I saw this tweet from my co-visitor there, Paul Bradshaw:

Still haven’t settled on an RSS reader to replace #googlereader – Netvibes doesn’t seem to cope with so many feeds…
— Paul Bradshaw (@paulbradshaw) June 14, 2013

I replied:

@paulbradshaw I’ve settled on Feedly for reading generally – the fly in the ointment is the lack of search.
— Adam Tinworth (@adders) June 14, 2013

I’ve never really gone into the reasons why, and with the Google Reader shutdown now less than two weeks away, it seems like I should…

There’s no doubt that it has taken me a while to get used to Feedly. I’m used to the river of headlines style of Google Reader and the many app that I used it through. As you can see from the picture above, I generally have Feedly set to a more magazine-style appearance. After about a month of using it that way, I can’t imagine going back to the old approach.

The art of flicking…

It’s fundementally more efficient for flicking through feeds – and I subscribe to a lot of them – than the other approach. The combination of extracting the photo and a chunk of text makes it easier for me to make rapid decisions about what’s worth clicking through to, or not. I’m wasting less time starting to reading arcticle that I’m not actually that interested in, and that’s valuable, given how time-limited I am at the moment.

It also means that my RSS reading has moved almost entirely to my iPad. I once in a while flick through some feeds on my phone, but I pretty much never open Feedly in the browser on my laptop. The magazine-style design of Feedly and Flipboard has cottoned onto something quite profound. Magzine design evolved the way it did because it’s very effective at presenting content to you in an enjoyably browsable format. People sit down and flick through magazines – they rarely sit and read them comprehensively like they do a book, say. Taking design cues from magazines without slavishly following them makes perfect sense, and works really well.

My feed browsing has become a genuinely “lean back” task, and would be laregly performed in my favourite tub chair, if my wife hadn’t nicked it for nursing Hazel…

Maybe Google did us a favour

In fact, Feedly is just one of a range of services developing and innovating around RSS for the first time in probably half a decade. Feedly suits me just fine, but I assume that there are plenty of other people out there who’d prefer something more akin to the old style. My old favourite Mr Reader is in the process of updating to support alternatives, and is the well-regarded Reeder – which will be supporting Feedly.

RSS is always going to be a power-user feature, bar some canny developer coming up with a user-experience on top of it that’s so simple and compelling that explaining what the service is and why you should care becomes trivial – which it’s not right now. That’s OK, though. The development we’re seeing is of serious and dedicated tools for hard-core consumers of web information. That’s exactly what we need.

Without intending to do it, Google ended up shackling the development of RSS readers. I’m looking forward to a world without those shackles.