(USA TODAY) On Wednesday, Google announced it was shutting down several services, including its popular Reader application. The company cites declining usage and a shift toward a smaller selection of Google services.
Naturally, Reader's impending shutdown has sparked discussion on whether this marks the end of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), content feeds users can follow on readers such as Google's software.
But social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have played a big role in how we consume content. Now that users can follow websites through social outlets, RSS is becoming less popular.
That's no consolation for the many users who love Google Reader, which is a great way to follow multiple websites within one destination. Fortunately, there are alternatives. Here's a look at four of them:
Feedly. This free RSS reader combines the organizational qualities of Google's software with a magazine-style design. Feeds are easy to add and organize, while a Today tab makes it simple to scroll through the latest news of the day. Feedly is available as extensions on the Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers, and there are mobile apps for Android and iOS. If you prefer the traditional list view of headlines in Google Reader, Feedly allows you to adjust. Although the service relies on Google Reader's API, developers say they are creating their own version that will take its place when Reader shuts down July 1.
Pulse. Another visually friendly reader with complimentary Android and iOS apps, Pulse delivers content in a tile format, with stories appearing in a series of photo tiles. Click on a link with image and read the fuller story. Once in the full read mode, users can tap the left or right arrows to move to the next story. Twitter and Facebook buttons sit on top for quick sharing. The process for adding feeds is similar to Google, although Pulse does not appear to have an option for importing Google Reader feeds. When logging in for the first time, users can also opt to follow specific subjects, such as sports, technology or politics.
Flipboard. The "social magazine" for iOS and Android boasts a gorgeous design similar to a digital magazine. Users swipe left to right to navigate as if they're turning the pages of a magazine. Along with adding RSS feeds, users can add their Facebook and Twitter feeds to give them a more dynamic, visually appealing experience. The only drawback is the service is mobile only, so look elsewhere if you want a Web-based option.
Twitter. Yes, this isn't a RSS reader, but the social network is a solid "outside the box" alternative for users wanting to keep up with the news. My approach is creating Lists based on topic and adding accounts I follow. So, I may have one List for tech news and another for business news. It's a great way to separate them from your standard feed, especially if you follow a lot of accounts. Another advantage: users can choose Twitter's primary site and mobile apps, or choose from several Twitter clients for the browser, smartphone or tablet. While users lose the ability to read cleaner versions of articles without visiting the source website, it's a solid option if you're already comfortable with Twitter.
Update at 10:57 a.m.: Among some other options to consider: NetVibes, NewsBlurand Skimr. Thanks to readers for weighing in.
Brett Molina, USA TODAY