Brian Barrett for Wired:
The modern web contains no shortage of horrors, from ubiquitous ad trackers to all-consuming platforms to YouTube comments, generally. Unfortunately, there's no panacea for what ails this internet we've built. But anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that's been there all along but has often gone ignored. Tired of Twitter? Facebook fatigued? It's time to head back to RSS.
I've been an RSS user for many years now and as my interest in reading and writing waxes and wanes, my reliance on it does also. RSS is a great way to get information directly from lots of places in one centralized location. It saves time. RSS has been like this from the start and has changed very little. Still, the readers and feed management solutions on the market today lack modern nescessities that weren't even considered at the height of Google Reader's reign. For instance, feed filtering.
Here's Brian's rundown on the most popular services on the market today:
Still, Feedly has plenty to offer casual users. It has a clean user interface, and the free version of its service lets you follow 100 sources, categorized into up to three feeds—think News, Sports, Humor, or wherever your interests lie. It also shows how popular each story is, both on Feedly and across various social networks, to give you a sense of what people are reading without letting that information dictate what you see.
For more of a throwback feel, you might try The Old Reader, which strips down the RSS reader experience while still emphasizing a social component.
Power users, meanwhile, might try Inoreader, which offers for free many of the features—unlimited feeds and tags, and some key integrations—Feedly reserves for paid accounts. "I would say that at the moment Feedly is ahead of us in terms of mass appeal design look and UX, which is something we will try to tackle with our upcoming redesign," says Victor Stankov, Inoreader's business development manager. "Hardcore nerds love us way more than Feedly."
And those are just three options of many. The point being: In 2018, it's easy to find an RSS reader out there that suits your needs. Which, in hindsight, is no small miracle.
I've used all of these services and many more over the years trying to find one that suits my needs.
As the editor of a blog dedicated to logging the history of one musician's career, I subscribe to dozens of feeds that focus on hip-hop, pop, and industry news. Naturally each of these outlets churn out five to fifteen news stories a day. Factored out, that's a lot of headlines to surf. It's impossible to catch every passing reference to a singular topic in that much text. That's where filtering comes in.
There is FeedRinse, who has been promising a 2.0 launch for a few years now but still offers their old service in the meantime. There you can import your feeds and setup filters using keywords, author, tags as criteria and export them to a single new feed, but this isn't sustainable when you're consistently adding new sources. I've had issues with the exported feeds missing things as well. I'm looking forward to the relaunch, but meanwhile I've had to look elsewhere.
Beyond finicky made-to-order python scripts that parse and filter feeds, I've found just two other pre-built options for cutting the fat from my feeds. Newsblur and Inoreader. Neither have beautiful interfaces, but do cater to an audience more savvy and reliant on RSS than your typical reader.
Newsblur boasts about six thousand premium users and an equal number of free users. They offer unique training features that highlight topics you are more likely to be interested in, but the keyword filtering isn't quite as robust as I'm looking for. Inoreader has the capability but an even worse interface, as Stankov alluded to above. I've tried their premium service a few times and I'm pretty happy with what comes through my filters, but exporting my cleaned feeds to my day-to-day RSS client Reeder 3 makes for messy metadata.
In the end, my setup for specialized topics generally consists of numerous services chained together, removing and adding metadata as it passes through filters and aggregators until it reaches my device. This isn't ideal and it only mostly works.
I don't think that RSS has necessarily died-off as a result of Google Reader, but become more fragmented. There are few realms of this sort of technology that remain unstandardized in how it is consumed, something podcasters wish to maintain. In podcasting, which piggybacks on RSS, this has lead to a number of highly-featured clients. What exists in RSS readers is lacking in comparison.
I think there is major room for growth in this area and as more people spend less time on social networks, they'll likely revisit more analog options for news gathering. As the number of outlets increases, I hope that the major players in the RSS market will address my needs for topic-based filtering as well.
I'm open to any solutions worth testing.