Once upon a time, Google Reader was just one of many RSS readers out there. Today, though, it can often feel as if Google Reader really is the only game in town when it comes to subscribing and reading news feeds. Today, Google launched the largest update to Google Reader in a long time. While it brings some new features (especially integration with Google+), it also does away with a number of useful tools that many users came to rely on in the past. Reader’s social features, for example, are now almost completely gone. You also can’t bundle a set of feeds and share them with friends anymore, just like you can’t share comments about stories with your friends in Google Reader.

Given all of these changes – and a new design that isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – here are three alternatives that are worth checking out. Most of them don’t recreate the social features that Google Reader used to have, though, but given that those aren’t coming back as Google is moving to Google+, now may just be the best time to switch to a new feed reader anyway.

Feedly

Given that you probably already manage all of your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service (there are also various mobile and tablet apps).

Go Desktop: FeedDemon (Win) and NetNewsWire(Mac)

Before Bloglines, Google Reader and numerous other web-based RSS readers, most of us relied on desktop apps to regularly ping and update our feeds. The idea of using a desktop app may sound odd in this day and age where everything is on the web, but there is still something to be said for a good desktop app that neatly integrates with the rest of your system.

netnewswire_text_logoQuite a few of the older readers are now unmaintained, as their developers have moved on, but for Mac users, NetNewsWire is still more than worth a look (though I can’t really recommend NetNewsWire 4 Lite, which is the only version that is in the Mac App Store) and for Windows users, FeedDemon is still the app to beat. Both of them are still under active development, sync with Google Reader and offer at least some support for social sharing features (NetNewsWire, for example, also support Instapaper).

Personally, I use a combination of Feedly and NetNewsWire as my main setup for reading feeds.

Host Your Own: Fever

fever_smallIf you want total control over your feed reader without using the desktop because you want the convenience of being able to access your feeds wherever you are, take a look at Fever. It’s one of the prettiest and most fully-featured self-hosted RSS readers out there today – but you do have to pay $30 for a license.

What makes Fever stand out is its speed (it can ping a lot of feeds and can do so pretty fast) and its built-in memetracking feature which ranks stories based on how often they are being talked about by other sources in your feeds. You can even put feeds you don’t normally read into a separate folder that you don’t read but that influences the Fever algorithm.