in interview

In the aftermath of Google announcing that it was going to mothball Google Reader David Smith announced he was developing his own alternative RSS service to fill the coming void. In fact, he managed to release feedwrangler, his google reader replacement service, before Google reader was formally retired on the 1st of July. As we approached the 6 month mark of Google reader’s demise I was fortunate enough to find out from David some of his inights into the death of Google reader.

What Was The Push That Made You Create An Alternative RSS Reader?

For a long time I had grown worried about Google Reader’s future. It seemed to have been long neglected. I use RSS on a regular basis so I started working on it as a side project for my own use. Once Google announced it was ending Reader I just took the step of taking my personal system and generalizing it for my customers.

How Is Feed Wrangler Different From Other Feed Companies?

As I see it there are really two categories of feed syncing companies. There are a handful of small, independent companies (Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, News Blur,…) and then there are the handful of larger, typically VC backed options (Feedly, Aol, Digg, …). The difference between these two groups is most concisely defined as the way we make our money and as a result our focus. My customer is my end user (not an advertiser) and as such they are my sole focus. Within the independent options the differences seem to come down mostly to price and flavor. Additionally, Feed Wrangler is the only syncing provider I know of that integrates podcasts natively into their system and proves synced apps for listening to them.

Did the Success of Feed Wrangler lead you to setting up Pod Wrangler or was there another reason you set it up?

Once I had the infrastructure in place for Feed Wrangler it became clear that I also had all the pieces I’d need to build a server backed podcast solution. So it seemed a logical next step to expand the types of feeds that I could handle. I also personally listen to dozens of podcasts so I wanted a podcast client that fitted exactly with my tastes. Pod Wrangler was the result.

How have user numbers changed since you started Feed Wrangler? Are you getting more users? Are they subscribing to as many/more feeder or declining?

There was obviously a huge wave of signups around the Reader shutdown. Since then things have settled down but my subscription base is still growing each day. The pace of this growth is something I’m very happy with. It continues at a pace that gives me pretty good confidence about the sustainability of the platform.

Have you changed how you use RSS changed since reader went away?

Not really. There are a few features like Filters that I use in Feed Wrangler but weren’t there in Reader. But, more generally, my general workflow of keeping up on my favorite blogs is much the same as it was back in the old Reader days.

What have you learnt from starting feed wrangler?

Gosh, where to start. Probably the biggest lessons i’ve had to learn (sometimes the hard way) are around scaling and performance. While I’ve built numerous web services before Feed Wrangler it was the first one where the scale of the data being managed required specialized considerations. Additionally it has provided an opportunity to learn about working with 3rd Party developers who use my API.

What’s coming in 2014 for Feed Wrangler (and you in general)

Feed Wrangler is settling down nicely in terms of core functionality and stability. I expecting 2014 to be focused on making the end user experiences better and better. This will include an overhaul of the iOS client and web experience. As well as working on continuing to improve the desktop podcast experience. I’m also looking at other ways that I can leverage the server infrastructure that I have built for other user features (much like I did for Pod Wrangler).

Thank you for your Time David.
You can find David Smith at his website or on twitter @_DavidSmith. If you are interested in subscribing to Feedwrangler you can either sign up on the feedwrangler website or download the app and make an in app purchase.

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