Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Feedly vs Inoreader, my thoughts (part 1)


Note: This is Part 1 in my humble series, as I agonize over whether to commit to Feedly or Inoreader as my RSS reader of choice. See Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5 if you're interested. 



When Google Reader died, I was heartbroken. Luckily, like a rebound lover, Feedly was there to pick up the pieces and make me feel all warm and safe. However, as time has gone on, Feedly has started to seem to lose interest in me, pushing me into the arms of another lover: Inoreader.

Basically it comes down to one key point: each RSS reader's treatment of "small time" feeds. What I mean are those feeds that are maybe not updated very often, such as once a month or once every two months, and those feeds with very few subscribers (including, but not limited to, feeds for which I might be the sole subscriber).

Examples of what I mean include:
  • Reddit subreddits that have just a few new posts each month
  • Blogger and Wordpress comment feeds (subscribing via RSS to new comments on specific posts)
  • Sourceforge application update feeds
  • Craigslist search results feeds
  • Blogs of some personal friends
I first started noticing that Feedly was dropping these feeds when I'd get curious about some sites, sites that I knew had updated, not showing up in my Feedly. Visiting the feed from within Feedly indicated no new material, even after manual refreshing. Yet a quick visit to the feed URL itself confirmed my fears: the feed was updated, and nearly a month ago, with two new items. Feedly totally missed them. Had I relied purely on Feedly to deliver my news, I would never have seen them. That, to me, is a big problem.

Putting them to the test: Inoreader on top

So I've tried out Inoreader for the last two weeks. Basically, I pared down my subscribed feeds, cleared them all out, then started fresh on both services by importing the same OPML file into both, and watching the results.

After two weeks of this, it became clear: many of my "smaller" feeds were being ignored by Feedly. One or two had "feed issues" (the Reddit feeds) according to Inoreader's informative subscription management pane, but were nonetheless being fetched by Inoreader.

Here you can see the relative fetching speed of each service. I erased all my subscriptions, loaded a fresh OPML subscription list (a smaller one than I usually use, just 20 feeds) into each service, then waited two hours. Here was the result:

Feedly

Inoreader

You can see that Inoreader did a better job of feed fetching.

Some thoughts about both: Feedly's revenge

This may seem that I am overwhelmingly in favor of Inoreader, but that's not exactly true. I'm still a bit on the fence, and here's why:
  1. Feedly, for better or worse, seems the dominant player in RSS feed readers, which is a small enough field not to permit too many competitors. Most Google Reader refugees originally fled to Feedly. This may change in the future (Inoreader seems right on its tail, which to me suggests that others are migrating as well), but for now I'm still hesitant to leave behind the large and potentially more stable Feedly in favor of yet another newer reader.
  2. Feedly is more beautiful. This may not be an important factor for some, but I personally find Feedly to be the more "readable" of the two. It feels a little more slick, a little more polished, a little more concerned with appearances. And to me, as someone who reads hundreds of feeds a day, that matters. Inoreader is not ugly by any means. It's really just a personal preference. The font, the transitions, the design, seems smoother, especially in the Android app, on Feedly than Inoreader. This may change when Inoreader's update comes out.
Additionally, although this should be unnecessary, there are a few things I've done to improve the performance of Feedly:
  1. Feedburner. Going through my subscription list, I discovered many blogs for which I was subscribed to the blog's own RSS feed (like blog.com/feed) but that the blog also has a Feedburner feed. Switching my subscription to the Feedburner feed improved Feedly's performance in fetching articles, especially infrequently-updated blogs.
  2. IFTTT. For feeds that are rarely updates or unique to me, I've found that IFTTT's "feed" channel is equal to Inoreader at fetching articles from sources quickly and accurately. Thus I've just created IFTTT recipes for those problematic few feeds, so I now have new posts e-mailed to me. This has the fringe benefit of drawing more attention to these infrequently-appearing posts, which I might have inadvertently scrolled past in an RSS reader.

Final thoughts

After all this, I find myself leaning towards Feedly still. I've been with them since Google Reader, and feel willing to give them one more shot. Of course, until I'm more confident about the quality of their service, there's no way I'm buying a pro plan, even if I'd like to. Too risky to invest in a service I might soon see a need to flee from. Maybe they can change their ways, or maybe I'm going back to an abusive relationship and will long to get out again soon and into the sexy seductive arms of Inoreader. Either way, it's great that both of these services allow import/export of your OPML reading list, so that moving between them is fairly painless (unless you have a lot of tagged, saved articles you also want migrated, in which only Inoreader supports it.)

Expect a follow-up post in a few months.

UPDATE 2014-11-06: And the follow-up post is complete. For more of my comparisons, see this series Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 if you're interested. 

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