Getting out from under the monopoly of Google Reader with the help of Newsblur

Over the past few years the number of web-based RSS readers has dwindled as Google used it’s search property to build out into other areas (including RSS readers) rather like the way Microsoft used its Windows and Office franchises to build out its monopoly.

Admittedly, Google doesn’t have the reputation for sharp elbows that Microsoft had, so it probably hasn’t done anything illegal per se. But to give you an idea of how pervasive Google Reader is; even desktop RSS readers like NetNewsWire use Google Reader to synch status across desktop, iPhone and iPad applications.

I don’t think that is a particularly healthy market situation; where is the incentive to innovate in the space? And socialising everything like the Google+ grey goo that has seeped over many of Google’s properties provides a compromised user experience.

Now some people may argue that they get everything that they need from Twitter, but that relies a hell of a lot on serendipity. For people who act as social editors, signposting content to others, or look to have a more structured approach to their online content consumption RSS readers are indispensable.

According to author and journalist Charles Arthur:

My newsreader is a key source

How complete is is Google’s monopoly on RSS readers?

Since NHN Corporation announced that it would be shuttering its Fastladder service at the end of this month, I have been evaluating alternative readers. The two viable alternatives I found were Cheetah News built by a Polish developer which is fast, but the user experience is clunky and Newsblur which is developed by Brooklyn-based developer Samuel Clay and his pet dog.

I decided to go with Newsblur in the end. At the time of  writing I haven’t been able to get my OPML file up on to the system; but I am pretty confident that Samuel will sort it out.

So, how do you move from Fastladder to Newsblur?

fastladder
This is what Fastladder users would have seen most of the time using the RSS reader.
start
Once you log-in now you see the following screen. The red box links to a blog post. This basically tells you the service is going offline and provides a link to fastladder.com/export which is allows you to download an OPML file. This is a file that has a list of all the blogs that you follow and the folder system you use in a format that can be read by other RSS readers.
export
The fastladder.com/export page is really simple. Click on the export link and the file should download to the default location that your browser downloads files to (most people set this up as their desktop). The file will be called export.xml. Make a back-up of it for old time’s sake.
newsblur start
Newsblur can be found at Newsblur.com. The image above is what the initial page looks like. There is a simple sign-up section on the page, so simple that I didn’t think it worthwhile screen-grabbing it. Press the radio button for the premium offering and pay the suggested $24 annual payment. This allows you to load up more than the default 64 feeds – if you are knowledge worker, or even just naturally curious you’ll need the premium version.
newsblur
After you’ve signed up and paid up, this is what your first page is like. You now need to make use of the OPML file that you saved earlier. Click on the button that is signposted first things first at the bottom left of the image and you get this screen:
OPML
Browse and find the export.xml file saved on your computer. You can see where I did this right near the bottom of the box. After Newsblur processes this file you should be up and running with a service that is similar to use to Fastladder if you use Newsblur in ‘feed mode‘.

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