Randy Charles Morin blogs about Really Simple Syndication, RDF, FOAF, The Semantic Web and Social Software.
Copyright 2003-5 Randy Charles Morin
As promised, this article is a rundown of all the RSS readers that I've used over the years (and others) and a little bit about what I like and dislike about each. Not to mention, a lot of linking juice to other previous reviews of RSS readers. Please feel free to continue the discussion in my comments or on your blog.
Pluck is a family of RSS readers; a Web-based reader, a Firefox sidebar and an Internet Explorer toolbar. I was able to synchronize my subscriptions across all three readers, which is really nice, since I often have need for all three platforms. The thing about Pluck is that it's pretty easy to use, doesn't require you to launch an application that you aren't already using and it simply works. This is a great starter RSS reader, but on the downside, they seem to have technical issues that prevent some users from using it (even thought it's a Web application, I'm unable to connect from my workplace) and Pluck lacks some of the more interesting features of other RSS readers.
My Yahoo! is by far the most broadly used RSS reader. The reason is simple, Yahoo! slipped RSS under the hood of My Yahoo! without the user having to know WTF RSS is. Compound that with the +my.yahoo buttons found across all their Websites and partner Websites and it's no wonder they are #1. An A+ goes to Yahoo!'s information management and marketing departments. On the downside, My Yahoo! isn't a very good RSS reader [for the advanced user] and Yahoo! often creates invalid RSS that works in My Yahoo! but that doesn't work in other RSS readers. Again, like Pluck, My Yahoo! is a great place to get started with RSS, but I find it lacking compared to other RSS readers. On a more broad scope, Yahoo! is doing a lot of interesting things with RSS and that makes Yahoo! a great community leader and well ahead of the competition; Microsoft and Google.
Update: Some feedback indicated that my words were harsher than I wanted them to be on the downside of My Yahoo! and I just wanted to stress that My Yahoo! is one of the best places to get started with RSS.
GreatNews is the first really interesting reader I'm discussing in this article. The reading view [screen shot] is actually very interesting and as advertised, you can scan thru articles twice as fast as with other news readers. One feature that Bloglines users will appreciate is that GreatNews uses the Bloglines API to reader directly from Bloglines, which means you can alternate between GreatNews and Bloglines, and your subscriptions and read items are synchronized. The product is still in Beta and has a rather large Chinese following, which is a good sign that it's internationalized and Chinese localized. Although many other RSS readers are internationalized and many are Chinese localized, this is one of a few RSS readers that have an active Chinese support forum. The downside of GreatNews is that it's less than six months old (still in Beta) and mostly playing catch-up at this point, but development is progressing quickly and it could become one of the most powerful RSS readers before the end of the year.
Custom Reader Demo is a brandable-RSS reader. In other words, it's not really meant for general distribution, but if you have a Website and you'd like your users to read RSS in a reader branded with your logo, then this is the solution. Recommended for those looking for their own branded RSS reader.
Bloglines is a very powerful Web-based RSS reader. It is also extremely popular among geeks. They also provide an API that allows other RSS reader, like GreatNews to synchronize subscriptions and read items. I find the framed Website difficult to navigate and reading 500 subscriptions in Bloglines is next to impossible. I use Bloglines mostly to maintain my blogroll. Not recommended.
Firefox is the simplest of RSS readers and really is just a knock-off of Internet Explorer channels, which is almost 10-yr-old technology. I wouldn't recommend using Firefox as an RSS reader, unless you have less than ten feeds that you are interested in following.
The most complete line of RSS readers is produced by NewsGator. Very similar to Pluck, they provide three types of RSS readers; Web, Outlook and stand-alone reader called FeedDemon. They also have a podcatcher called FeedStations. Comparing NewsGator to Pluck, NewsGator has much better technology under-the-hood and is more feature-plenty, but I find all of NewsGator's product difficult to navigate and a step down from the easy-of-use found in Pluck. A final note, I hate and don't use Outlook, except when forced, which doesn't translate well to liking NewsGator's Outlook client. On the other hand, if you use Outlook, then NewsGator might be for you. The big downside, FeedDemon is not free ($29.95 USD).
NetNewsWire is a Mac OS X RSS reader. I don't use Mac, but I've heard good things and it's really popular. If you Mac, then NetNewsWire is likely your best and one of your only choices for a rich RSS reading experience. And the screenshots are pretty cool too! The big downside, it's not free ($24.95 USD).
R|mail admittedly is of my own creation. It's a small little script that I run on my servers that turns RSS in SMTP. You use the form to subscribe your email address to an RSS feed. Every hour, I check if there are new posts and send you the latest one. Pretty simple and you don't need to login to anything or install any software. Not recommended for non-geeks.
RSS Bandit was one of the first RSS readers that I used. In fact, 18 months ago, I think it was one of the top 5 distributed RSS applications. But as a hobby project, it hasn't kept pace with the commercial RSS readers. On a technical level, RSS Bandit is quite amazing and since it's open source, I often download the source code to figure out how Dare went about coding this or that feature.
Juice is my personal RSS reader. I wrote Juice, because I hate Outlook and Outlook-styled RSS readers. That's pretty much 99% of the RSS readers out there. I needed something to quickly read RSS items. In Juice, I have a button 'Read', which I click and click and click and click all day. It makes for fast reading. I also have a button 'Mail', so that I can quickly route RSS items via email and another button 'Post', so that I can quickly post content to my linkblog.
Two years ago, Sharpreader was by far the best RSS reader on the market. It had some cool features that many RSS readers still don't have today. Unfortunately, like RSS Bandit, it was a hobby project and the owner hasn't been able to allocate any time to moving it forward. I'm also finding that Sharpreader is not very bandwidth friendly, which was acceptable two years ago, but not very acceptable today.
eCruiser is a very popular Japanese RSS reader. I can't tell you much about it, but if you feel more comfortable in a Japanese localized client, then this is likely your best choice.
Trillian is a very flexible and extensible chat client. They have a news plugin for reading RSS feeds. I can't seem to link directly to the plugin today, unsure why. I haven't used this plugin, but I'm not a Trillian user and I've found that people who use Trillian as an alternate IM client, often complain that it drops IM messages. Last Trillian has features that annoy the other side of the conversation. Not recommended.
As with most early adopters, my first RSS reader was the Radio Userland client. It was more than just an RSS reader, it was a blogging platform. In some ways, it's still better than the RSS clients above. For instance, most of the RSS readers above allow you to read news, but don't have blogging and most of those that allow blogging only allow very simple link style blogging. But Radio hasn't progressed as an RSS reader in a few years and cannot be used as a stand-alone RSS client. Not recommended.