6 months ago this day Google Reader shut down and the voices of millions of blog posts were suddenly silenced. Although there was a huge outcry before Google reader disappeared, on the actual day it went away it seemed to pass many users by without a word.
Part of the reason was that by this time a few groups had come out with alternative apps for the service so it was easy to miss but also many tweets and blog posts had been written venting their frustraton. But 6 months on and the picture has changed a lot. The internet (at least for nerds) looks very different than it did before.
RSS Is In Decline
Since July there is no doubt that RSS is really in (mainstream) decline. It's hard to tell how much chicken and Egg this is, forcing people to change their habits from Google reader to a different service was always going to lose many RSS users but when you add in the latest changes in Google's alogrithim that punish blog if their content has been scrapped by RSS scrapers and reposted, it is encouraging many big name bloggers to turn their RSS feeds into titles only. Why would you bother with an RSS reader if it is just for the titles when you can get the same from a twitter feed (with the added benefit of cat pics)?
However much of chicken and egg it is doesn't really matter, the fact of the matter is more users are using twitter or another social network as a form of RSS feed or services like flipboard which scrapes your social networks as well as blog subscriptions.
But just because users are moving away from traditional RSS readers it doesn't mean they're dead.
Feedly was the most popular app out of the gate after google reader's death due to it easy import feature, seemless transition, familiar interface and (perhaps most importantly) free offering! This was the app I advised most of my friends to move to due to these very features.
However, since the death of Google reader Feedly has changed a lot, or at least tried to. The most notable moments are introducing a pro account, taking photos from links (even when the article has no photo normally), forcing users to have a google plus account, and perhaps worse of all making shared links which lead to the same content on Feedly's website.
It should be noted that feedly has reversed most of it's unpopular decisions but it doesn't help to build trust in a company that drops changes for users to find and then reverses them if they prove to be unpopular.
FeedWrangler and FeedBin started up offering two paid services that emerged and have proven to be fairly popular. FeedWrangler has been very interesting with offering up a podcast service as well and a free app for all feedwrangler subscribers (which can also be paid for separate). It also supports a host of third party apps as well.
Feedbin is slightly more expeinsive (though offers smaller pay cycles than feedwranglers yearly).
However, both apps offer very clean interfaces focusing on content and as they are independent rather than venture backed initatives, they are focusing on pleasing the users.
The Best App And Service?
Obviously, this question is always going to be subjective but there are some things that I feel we can agree upon. Getting people to pay for a service is always going to be difficult, when there is a free version or a paid one…people usually choose the free (although there's always a cost somewhere to someone).
Perhaps you have stopped using RSS readers and have found a nice alternative such as flipboard or just using twitter. Maybe you don't mind the changes that Feedly is making but frankly feedly's trend to impliment big changes and then retract them when people complain make me distrust it. It's one of the common problems with free services, as a user you have less ability to influence decisions than if you are helping to finance the project.
Likewise, there is always a risk that other big name companies who have entered into RSS like Digg won't stay committed in the long run just as Google didn't.
As such you're down to feedwrangler and feedbin. Personally I've gone for feedwrangler. The larger support for 3rd party apps and podwrangler is a great service too. David Smith also seems to have a great perspective and is a developer who I want to help support (Check out our interview with him) [coming later today].
How do you follow blogs? Which RSS service do you use (if any)?