Bloglines for iPhone 12.02.2007

I never though that this day would come to pass so soon1, but it did: I’ve just removed NetNewsWire from my dock, and added a bookmark to Bloglines to both Firefox on the laptop and MobileSafari on my iPhone.

There were a whole bunch of reasons why I made the switch, but I think the major ones filtered down to a fairly small list.

Synchronization

I read my news feeds on the laptop. That’s location A. I read my news feeds on my work computer. That’s location B. I read my news feeds on my iPhone. That’s location C. And I read news feeds on Michelle’s laptop, and conference room computers between meetings, and countless other random places. That’s locations C-Z.

NetNewsWire has the ability to synchronize itself via FTP, and via its NewsGator service. But FTP synchronization is slow, and unreliable. News items may get lost, and read/unread flags get shifted and confused. NewsGator syncing is slightly better, but still presents syncing issues between the desktop client and its web version.

As such, it was only a matter of time before the perils of desktop client syncing — which, really, is never going to be perfect since it’s mirroring data stores, rather than working off the sames tore — became too much and I converted to a web reader.

Bloglines manages to get all around that by providing a decent web client UI (which NewsGator decidedly doesn’t have).

UI

One of the biggest hurdling blocks I had switching to a web client for feeds was that I’d gotten very comfortable with the way that NetNewsWire works. Navigation was fast, easy, and simple. Ease of use when subscribed to many feeds was paramount, because I’m subscribed to a little under 400 feeds.

Before decided on Bloglines, I tried out both Google Reader and NewsGator. Unlike Google Reader and Bloglines, NewsGator is a for-pay service. In terms of judging criteria, this immediately put some additional expectations on it, since unlike the other two, I’m actually paying for this service.

Google Reader was simple and fast. It’s UI, like Gmail, was minimal, but not dumbed down. But, to put it bluntly, it’s management process for feeds just didn’t mesh with me. I like reading my feeds in groups. I like having all my Mac related feeds in one group, and having all items from that group displayed in a list. I like having all my car feeds, or all my gaming feeds. I subscribe to many sources that could be considered to cover the same material (joystiq vs. kotaku, autoblog vs. edmunds vs. cars.com vs. jalopnik). I do this because invariably they cover some material differently, and have different points of commentary on those items that are shared between them.

But Google Reader makes that hard to do. It delineates too easily that this item is from this feed.

NewsGator was much the same way, except its UI was slower, it’s design more complicated, and altogether not what I really expected for something I had to pay for.

Bloglines isn’t quite as polished as Google Reader, but is still just as simple. And its beta reader is pretty nifty.

But what I really liked about Bloglines is that it allowed me to read feeds as groups. I could create folders, and put all my car feeds in the car folder. Then, I could just read the car folder as if it was a single feed, with all items from that folder aggregated into one list.

iPhone

The iPhone played a big part in my decision because it’s fast becoming the platform with which I do the most feed reading. Waiting in line somewhere? I can catch up on some news. On the metro? I can read up on news. In the mall with Michelle? I can keep up with what’s happening.

Of the three, NewsGator had the worst iPhone UI, Google Reader had the fastest, and Bloglines had the reader most suited to my use processes.

I’m going to skip NewsGator, because honesty, I didn’t look into its iPhone version too closely, because if its normal web client didn’t impress me, I wasn’t going to use it anyway.

Google Reader for the iPhone is incrediby nice. It looks almost like a native app. But it suffers from some serious flaws for people who have massive number of feeds:

  1. It doesn’t filter by read/unread. Instead, it shows an aphabetical list of all feeds. This means that not only do I lose my grouping, I lose the ability to see, at a glance, which feeds have new items. I’m required to scroll through the entire list.

  2. Mentioned above, it completely loses any grouping context. On the iPhone version, it delineates strictly on per-feed basis.

iPhone for Bloglines looks just as nice as Google Reader for iPhone. But, unlike Google Reader, it keeps group information and it filters out those feeds that don’t have any new items, showing me only new unread stuff.

Is this the end for desktop news reader clients?

Honestly, I don’t know. For me, I’ll probably never go back to a pure desktop solution. Once upon a time, there were ony a few limited places to access that data store of feeds. But now, with ever increasing places and devices that access the same store, it’s fast becoming impossible to rely on a singe desktop-bound solution.


  1. I knew it was bound to happen one day. There’s a whole category of services that, ultimately, just make more sense when it’s accessed from the web. RSS reading is one them. Email could be another, but I remain unconvinced by current web client examples.