Goodbye Bloglines…

The Bloglines Plumber. Poor guy. He was recently even replaced with balloons.

I wished this day would never come but have suspected for the last couple of years that it probably would. This weekend, I officially said goodbye to the website that changed the way I consume information more than any other site I’ve ever used: Bloglines.

I started using Bloglines in 2003 when it was the only viable web-based RSS Reader and before most people even knew what RSS was. It instantly changed my information consumption routine from pull to push. The thoughtfully designed interface and reliable uptime allowed me, and thousands of others, to quickly and efficiently sift through a lot of information in a short amount of time.

When Ask.com purchased the company from Mark Fletcher in 2005, I applauded the acquisition and just hoped the new company would more or less leave things they way they were. Unfortunately, over the last few years, uptime has gotten progressively worse and there haven’t really been any great features launched to offset the decline in reliability. Sure there’s a Bloglines Beta that’s been out for over a year now, but I don’t even like it as much as Bloglines Classic.

I don’t even mind the planned and unplanned downtime Bloglines occasionally sees. That’s fine. What I mind is that Bloglines has seemingly entered the late stages of Alzheimer’s over the last few months. Often I will read an item only to be reminded once, twice, or ten times in the future that that item is still “unread”. Or, all of the unread counts will rocket up to 200 and then back down a few minutes later.

When software starts to increasingly work against you, it’s time to change software, and so finally, I made the switch to Google Reader this weekend. I applaud Ben Lowery, Eric Engleman, and the Bloglines Team for all of the hard work they’ve put it over the last few years and I realize they are probably swimming against violent tides, but it’s just time to move on.

So far, I’ve found Google Reader to be much more reliable — which is no shock — but I’ve also found some niceties in the interface that I wasn’t expecting. One of the reasons I didn’t switch earlier was that I like Bloglines’ style of marking everything as read as soon as I click a feed and then allowing me to mark all as unread easily if I need to. I also like how Bloglines’ allows you to permanently save items on a feed-by-feed basis and separate them from the actual new items (Google makes you just “Star” them and they go into the big pile of Starred items).

I have to admit, I was extremely skeptical of Google Reader’s option of marking items as read as they pass through the browser’s viewport, but if you confine yourself to scrolling with the space bar, it actually works beautifully. In fact, I would go so far as to say the spacebar is Google Reader’s “killer key”. It just makes everything work better.

Another nice feature is the ability to view all items in a feed you’ve maybe just subscribed to and then quickly spacebar through everything. Google Reader only loads a few of the items and then as you get further down the list, it automatically loads more. Seamless. Great for feeds like Momoy which are image-heavy and text-light.

Finally, Google Reader’s mobile interface is spectacular on the iPhone. It’s really a joy to use.

So anyway, farewell Bloglines. You’re still my favorite website ever. Just not right now.

39 comments on “Goodbye Bloglines…”. Leave your own?
  1. Tim says:

    J and K are the killer keys – I started out with the spacebar, but “next item” and “previous item” are fantastic, especially when presented with a long, boring post.

  2. Eric Scouten says:

    I agree with Tim. J & K FTW.

    Also, take a close look at Bylines. It’s a very nice dedicated app for reading via Google Reader on the iPhone.

    (P.S. I *really* wish that GR would mark items as read once they scroll *out* of the viewport, not when the scroll *into* the viewport.)

  3. Steve S. says:

    Wow, talk about timing… I made the same switch in the past 10 days and I did it for the same reasons.

    “One of the reasons I didn’t switch earlier was that I like Bloglines’ style of marking everything as read as soon as I click a feed and then allowing me to mark all as unread easily if I need to.”

    It’s such a simple feature, but it’s the one that kept me with Bloglines for so long.

  4. Vince says:

    I migrated without thinking about it. a year ago i was a bloglines guy and just started using google reader because I was already logged into gmail. Eventually I just stopped going to bloglines.

  5. Josh Byers says:

    I made the switch a few months ago and haven’t really looked back.

    The one thing I did miss was the custom favicon Bloglines displayed for each site. That helps me to scan to the feeds I really want to read.

    Thankfully there is a script you can install to do just that in Google Reader.

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/24371

  6. david says:

    I left Bloglines around the time of the big hubbub about items not updating. (Two months ago?) Like you, I had a great deal of affection for Bloglines: it introduced me to RSS and served me well for years. But it finally became clear that it could no longer pull its own weight, and with some sadness we parted.

    That sounds utterly silly, I’m sure, but Bloglines was like that girlfriend who drives you crazy, but who you also can’t stand to leave. There were such good times!

    It seems almost every former Bloglines user, including myself, defected to Google Reader. It’s a fairly good reader I’ve no doubt, but it does bother me there there’s almost no credible competition in the online feedreader market.

  7. I will be writing about why later on in my site, but this week I plan on moving all of my external web content to Google Services. Last weekend I moved from NetNewsWire to Google Reader. This coming holiday weekend I plan on moving Flickr to Picasa, Delicious to Google Notebook, etc. I already run Google Apps so I have my Documents, Mail etc. already tied to Google.

    My only hope is that Google does a better job of integrating its various services, and that Google never shuts down.

  8. Richard says:

    I left Bloglines a long time ago for FeedLounge, but once that stopped, I switched to Google Reader and have not looked back. It offers all the features I look for in a reader. My only complaint is managing Starred items — essentially, there’s no way to manage it. You read starting with the most current starred item and scroll from there. I’d love to have a way to sort so I can go through and weed out the older ones before getting to the newly starred items. If I could have that feature, Google Reader would be just about perfect.

  9. Scott says:

    I’ve wanted to move to google reader for a while based on the same things you’ve mentioned. What keeps me from doing so is the fear of losing all of my saved posts that I’ll probably never revisit. Maybe I’ll just set up a delicious account for them or something.

  10. naomi says:

    I agree completely with the latest Bloglines frustrations you’re having. It’s gotten very unreliable lately, and the balloons just can’t compete with the plumber. The only thing that keeps me using it is that I’m too lazy to manually transfer all my feeds to another reader. Is there an automatic way to do that?

  11. Kel says:

    “I was extremely skeptical of Google Reader’s option of marking items as read as they pass through the browser’s viewport”

    Actually if you view in List View instead of Expanded View, the items are not marked as read while scrolling past. Further, if you go to Settings you can control the “Scroll Tracking” of items marked read while in Expanded View. HTH

  12. Mike D. says:

    Tim and Eric: Thanks for the heads up on the J/K keys. I wonder why J is next and K is previous, as opposed to the opposite. Usually “left” is previous and “right” is next. They probably reversed it so the next button was operated by your index finger. Works for me. I’ll make sure to check out Byline as well. By the way, to your point Eric, I can’t figure out exactly when Google Reader decides to mark as read. It’s not right when it enters the viewport. It does generally “feel right” though.

    Josh: Good find with the favicons. I miss those too.

    Scott: I had/have the same problem. What I ending up doing was creating a “Playlist” in Bloglines that contained all of my feeds and then clicked on it to display all of my hundreds of saved items in one frame. Then, I right-clicked inside the frame and hit “Save As…” in Safari to save the whole thing as an offline page. I figure I’ll just spend a couple of weekends getting through it all when I’m ready.

    naomi: Yeah, just click “Export Subscriptions” in Bloglines and it will put an OPML file on your desktop. Then you can import that into Google Reader. Voila.

  13. Adam Hobson says:

    So after this post appeared in my BlogLines the past four or five times I visited it, I decided to give it a read, and what do you know, you’ve inspired me to move on. I’ve always like BlogLines, it’s simple and used to do it’s job well. It’s not flashy, but the interface worked well and most importantly, quickly.

    However, over the past few months the service has been terrible. It’s probably at its worst right now. One of my feeds is now showing “new” items from 2007… over 300 of them.

    I give up. I just imported everything into Google Reader, spent 10 minutes getting rid of a few feeds that either no longer really exist or I no longer want to follow, and wham, now I’m a Google Reader user.

    So long BlogLines.

  14. Rich Loen says:

    Regarding J and K – it’s historical. One of the earliest editors in Unix was VI. True hackers can edit any text file in VI, and it’s one of the first programs ported to new systems.

    J and K move the cursor up and down in VI.

    http://www.lagmonster.org/docs/vi2.html

    And, I love Google reader. Been using it since it appeared. Agree totally that Bloglines has gone down hill.

  15. I agree. I started using Google Reader about a month ago and I freaking love it. I never used Bloglines though so I don’t really have anything to compare it to.

  16. Eric Scouten says:

    Re: “By the way, to your point Eric, I can’t figure out exactly when Google Reader decides to mark as read. It’s not right when it enters the viewport. It does generally “feel right” though.”

    IIRC it’s when the news item becomes the selected item (as indicated by the darker blue border). This usually happens when the item becomes the topmost item in the viewport.

  17. kyle says:

    i made the switch along time ago. back when it was the first, less popular version of greader. as others have mentioned, j/k keys are your friends. i also switch from expanded view to list view as someone mentioned. lastly, rather than setup folders/tags etc., i just view all my posts a la ‘river of news’ for fastest consumption and minimize the left nav panel to make the feeds come in full screen. i can crank through 150-250 posts a day like this.

    google reader, next to gmail, is my favorite app google’s released. i wish they would add it to their Google Apps for Your Domain suite of apps. I’d love to have a dedicated Google Reader set up to recieve google alerts and twitter searches based on comments about my compan that appear on the web.

    kyle

  18. Garth says:

    I switched from Bloglines a couple of weeks ago for exactly the same reasons you state. I was using their beta site which worked very well, but then stopped working reliably (maybe because it was beta?). I found Google Reader and I’ve been happy with my feeds ever since.

  19. Daniel says:

    You’re not the first person I’ve heard switch from Bloglines to Google Reader. I first tried Netnews Wire for my desktop – but at the time I wasn’t mobile so I could only read my feeds when I was on that computer. I quickly started looking for a web-based RSS reader and it came down to Bloglines and Google Reader. GR got so much more positive feedback when asking around so that’s what I went with. I’m not overly fond of the design or layout, but the functionality is rock solid. To spruce up the design, I’ve been using http://www.helvetireader.com/

  20. Scott says:

    I switched a year or so ago. I never thought I would, but like you I became frustrated with things that just wouldn’t work. For me, it was the refusal of Bloglines to remember to sort things from newest to oldest no matter how many times I changed the setting.

    Regarding Google Reader, ? displays a nice screen of keyboard shortcuts.

  21. sagbee says:

    Its such a shame that BIG company developers never ever tried to keep update bloglines beta version… its just half an hour before while i was thinking about good bye bloglines since am trying too google reader from last 3 days and really its promising at all from all of sides.

  22. Lincoln says:

    Mike, be sure to update your Ten Things page to reflect the updated status. *wink*.

  23. lloyd says:

    i have always preferred netvibes over any other RSS reader i have tried.

  24. Rick says:

    Your Momoy link doesn’t work, somehow it got a quotation mark in it. http://www.momoy.com/

    I don’t think I read enough feeds to sign up for any of the online readers. I use my google start page for the 7 that are regulars to keep up with the new stuff. Especially since updating ones website consistently seems to have lost its importance and the ones that do are usually rehashes of other sites.

    IMHO :)

    (Editor’s Note: Thanks… fixed!!)

  25. I also made the switch from Bloglines to Google Reader. It looks like Bloglines is an abandoned products and Ask.com doesn’t make any effort to keep it alive.

    http://www.loerakker.org/2008/12/signs-that-bloglines-is-fucked.php

  26. DAn says:

    I also jumped ship on Bloglines a few months back. I didn’t want to switch to Google Reader but it was highly recommended and now I’m glad that I did, Reader “just works” something Bloglines couldn’t seem to figure out.

  27. Mike D. says:

    Rich: Interesting folklore about the J and K keys!

    Lincoln: Thanks for the reminder. Fixed!

    Rick: Thanks for the heads-up. Also fixed.

  28. Eric says:

    never look back. J&K all the way. I organize everything into tiered folders and make my way through via chronological order. I made the switch from beta.bloglines.com after too much downtime. Now with shared items, email notes, and easy keyboard shortcuts I am very happy.

  29. Jim Moran says:

    The only thing stopping me from making the change is that I can’t seem to find the equivalent of “show unread feeds only” in Google reader. Anyone got any ideas?

  30. Scott says:

    Jim:

    Click the little down arrow beside “Subscriptions” in the left pane (the “_” icon is beside the down arrow). Then choose “Show Updated” to only show feeds with new posts.

  31. Jim Moran says:

    Thanks Scott – totally missed that drop down. Any usability testers at Google? :)

  32. Dan Almasy says:

    I don’t know if I’d say that the iPhone version of Google Reader is a “joy” to use. It certainly doesn’t come close to trumping the desktop version.

    I’ve always used Google Reader though, ever since I found out about RSS it really has changed the way I surf.

    I will say I still hate the most recent re-design of Reader. It was fine before :)

  33. Jim Moran says:

    Further to my last comment (#31) – it appears not.

    I’ve been using Google Reader for a couple of weeks now and overall I’m pretty impressed – no more feeds coming back from the “read”, some great shortcut keys, etc. However, the never ending scrollbar irks me – I can keep scrolling down and down and down… this isn’t how scrollbars work, Google developers!

    Anyway, a minor point really, I’m sticking with it.

  34. Chris Hansen says:

    So, I loved Bloglines, but it got flaky.

    At the time, Google reader was still too new and didn’t do the same as Bloglines.

    Also, I read on my Windows Mobile smartphone as much if not more than I read in a browser.

    My solution then was Newsgator, which provided a web interface as well as a Windows Mobile native application that I could run offline by downloading articles while I was online.

    Except, of course, that a new version of the mobile client requires you to be online to read the articles. And, of course, it takes up bunches of RAM and crashes on occasion or just locks up requiring a reboot.

    So, does anyone know of a way to read offline and online in such a way that what you read offline updates so you don’t have to read items twice?

  35. Ryan Pitts says:

    “One of the reasons I didn’t switch earlier was that I like Bloglines’ style of marking everything as read as soon as I click a feed and then allowing me to mark all as unread easily if I need to.”

    Count me as a Bloglines user who’s refused to switch for precisely this same reason. Still hanging on, but by a thread that’s getting thinner.

  36. MAS says:

    I came to the same conclusion you did. After being on Bloglines for years, I moved over to Google Reader. It was the poor performance of Bloglines that forced me to move.

  37. Chris Hansen says:

    Since moving to Google Reader a month or so ago I haven’t regretted it much. I’d still prefer being able to use my PDA offline and not in a web page but I’ll live with that to have a better newsreader.

  38. Calvin says:

    I’m switching over now too. Too many errors. Goodbye Bloglines!

  39. And now Bloglines is officially declared dead. That took a while.

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