Does Feedly Succeedly?

Rob Walker
Yahoo! News
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A promotional image from Feedly, the Google Reader replacement for many.

Back in March, when Google announced the death of its Reader product, the alternative RSS reader that made the biggest noise as a potential replacement for bereaved fans was Feedly. Apparently Feedly had anticipated Reader’s end, and claimed to be more than prepared to step in. I’m pretty RSS-dependent, so I jumped on this bandwagon immediately.

Now a few months have passed, and Reader is gone. How’s Feedly holding up? For me, quite well. In fact I now like it better than Google Reader — though I do have a few caveats. And if I’m really honest, Feedly has essentially trained me to like it. To resort to a McLuhanism, my experience has been a small example of how “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

I signed up for Feedly pretty much the moment I heard about it, and as promised tapped into my Reader feeds without a hitch. Still, I resisted actually using it. Why? Basically because it wasn’t Reader: The view options were different; leaving links unread wasn’t as intuitive. While the design was more visually appealing, even that turned me off, as I’d developed a fondness for Reader’s lo-fi aesthetic. So I clung to a doomed product.

Finally, after dabbling with some other alternatives, I forced myself to go all-Feedly; in the meantime other Reader fans had evidently convinced its makers to add a more Google-like view option. It wasn’t the same, but it helped. I added the Feedly app to my iPad, iPod Touch, and, later, HTC One phone.

Over time, a funny thing happened. I realized that some of Feedly’s view options were actually better for certain categories I follow than the Google-ish choice — the more splashy visual alternatives made more sense for art and photography blogs, for example. I liked that I could also tweak the various options for different devices, right down to the feed level. Feedly even convinced me that its “save” feature has advantages over leaving items unread, as I’d done with Reader.

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Now the caveats. Feedly has been buggy. On several occasions the iPad version has simply frozen up, and I’ve had to delete and reinstall it. There have been weird glitches around saved and unread articles, particularly as Feedly migrated accounts to its own servers — and as this Lifehacker post noted, the customer service response is often less than dazzling. Just this morning I found that the iPad app was displaying an “over capacity” message. This turns out to be a mobile login bug — now evidently fixed in a new version for Android, but it’ll take a week for it to become available to iOS users. (Meanwhile, Twitter is full of complaints about Feedly being over capacity, which suggests the Feedly team could do a better job of getting the word to users about the real issue.)

That said, I no longer miss Google Reader at all. While I have continued to play around with other readers, most recently the much-discussed Digg alternative (which looks a lot like Feedly) nothing has really tempted to me to switch. After all, I actually get through my hundreds of feeds more efficiently now than I ever did with Reader. Or that’s how it feels, at least. Maybe the truth is that Feedly has simply finished training me.

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