Every month or so, somebody will proclaim the death of RSS and feed readers at the hands of Twitter and Facebook. Indeed, there can be little doubt that interest in feed readers like Google Reader, NetNewsWire and FeedDemon has declined rapidly over the last few years as users switched to social networks and smart aggregators to consume news (and as consumers grew frustrated with the usability issues surrounding feeds).
Feedly, however, is one service that grew out of this era and continues to thrive by making its Google Reader-based magazine-like feed reader easy to use for newbies and powerful enough for power users. The company just launched its iPad (iTunes link) and Android tablet apps, as well as an update to its iPhone app.
Just a few years ago, before Twitter and Facebook became the phenomena they are today, Google Reader and shared feeds and posts there were on top of everybody’s minds when it came to social recommendations. Without large social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we didn’t really have any other meaningful metric to gauge social interest in a story.
Feedly, which first launched as a browser plugin back in 2008, still uses Google Reader shares as a metric for gauging interest in a story and creating your personalized homepage. More importantly, though, the new version of Feedly Mobile now makes it easy to quickly search for sources you would like to subscribe to, is noticeably faster than the previous iPhone version and features a beautiful, minimalist layout. While reading articles, you can like them on Google Reader, share them on other social networks or via email or save them for later (note: the iOS and Android versions are virtually identical, but I only tested the iPad version).
Can Feedly Remain Relevant in a World of Social Recommendations?
Whether you’re already heavily invested in Google Reader or not, Feedly is definitely worth a look. In the long run, though, I’m worried if Feedly will be able to compete with services based on social recommendations from Twitter and Facebook like Flipboard and those based on smart algorithms like my6sense (also RSS-based) and Zite. For most RSS feeds today, Google Reader shares are far and in between, so to remain relevant, Feedly will have to pull in other signals for evaluating the importance of a story, too.