On July 1, Google will kill off (or retire, as the company puts it) Google Reader — officially because of declining usage, but also perhaps for privacy issues, according to various reports.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of RSS-reader alternatives that make it easier to read the content you care about.
A quick refresher course on RSS feeds
For many PC users, RSS is an essential tool for consolidating daily news stories. For many others, it’s something they’ve heard about but don’t really understand. There’s even some confusion about the name.
RSS is short for Rich Site Summary, though it’s often also referred to as Really Simple Syndication (Wikipedia info). It’s essentially a format for feeding new digital content — typically, frequently updated content such as blogs and breaking news — to subscribers. Most RSS feeds are updated automatically by a provider’s publishing system and automatically aggregated by a subscriber’s RSS-reader application. Manually edited RSS feeds do exist; they’re typically updated in tandem with content releases.
Once set up, RSS gives subscribers access to their favorite blogs, news sites, podcasts, video feeds, and virtually any other constantly updated Web presence — all with minimal effort required by the user. RSS aggregation apps such as Feedly, NewsBlur, and Pulse pull these feeds into one page where users can quickly sort and scan the most recent updates. Imagine browsing the latest CNN stories, The Wall Street Journal articles, and your favorite blogs — all on the same page.
RSS lets publishers distribute as little or as much content as they’d like. Typically, they format feeds to keep readers informed of what’s new on the publishers’ primary sites. One publisher might send just a paragraph of information along with a link to the full article posted on the Web; another might opt to feed its entire content through RSS. Readers need do nothing more than subscribe to the feed to view all content locally.
Using RSS has both upsides and downsides for publishers. Distributing RSS feeds typically uses less bandwidth than downloading website pages. On the other hand, many RSS aggregators strip ads from feeds, making it harder for publishers to monetize the content.