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RSS Readers: Features and Synchronization

Last night I began writing a lengthy (and somewhat scathing) post about the state of RSS reader apps for iOS. I started off going through my gripes, some of which I still think are valid, and realized before I got too far down this road I needed to do some good research. Thankfully I did and came across Brent Simmons’s post “Why ‘Just Store the App Data on Dropbox’ won’t work for RSS readers”. Brent busts my biggest beef with the current crop of apps: reliance on Google Reader for sync and storage.

I, like others, am making the exodus from Google to other services. One that I am very tied to is Google Reader, primarily because of my use of Reeder for Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Essentially what Brent breaks down are the synchronization pitfalls of utilizing Dropbox, WebDAV, and iDisk (I presume iCloud as well) as a database location and sync service. He puts forth scenarios where there are huge RSS feeds and listings and the issues with caching older posts, as feeds tend to be limited to only the most recent posts. The breakdown comes to the point that there is so much involved and needed for a RSS sync service to work, that it would not be cost-effective to create such a system. Hence, the wide-adoption of Google Reader for syncing in so many reader apps.

My primary complaint involves subscribing to a feed and subscription management. Reeder for Mac has these features. Adding a subscription is convenient and simple. Managing is less than desirable, but doable. In Reeder for iPhone and Reeder for iPad both features are nonexistent. If you come across a site that you’d like to add to Reeder, you have to either log in to Google Reader or pull up Reeder on your Mac. Reeder is not alone in this limitation, even NetNewsWire’s FAQ for their iPad version states that in order to add a subscription a different app is required. I may be the only one complaining, but this seems like a logical, essential, and natural feature. Perhaps this is a limitation of the Google API, but I can’t see what the reason would be.

All this aside I think Reeder is the best designed app for reading your RSS feeds. I highly recommend Reeder to anyone looking for a dedicated RSS app for both iOS and Mac.