A few thoughts on the Newsgator announcement (aka Desktop versus Web-based feed readers)

Web Worker Daily has been covering Newsgator’s decision to release its consumer products for free:

As you may have heard, this afternoon NewsGator announced that all of their desktop/mobile client applications are now freeware. NetNewsWire (see our review) and FeedDemon are well regarded as the best-in-class for all things RSS in a desktop application..now without a price tag. Loyal fans are cheering that the company has abandoned their ‘buy the software and get a free subscription’ model in favor of different ways of raising revenue (including abandoning all but web forum support options).

These applications were always well worth their shareware/commercial license, and now that is a thing of the past. But is it disruptive?

NetNewsWireLogo.jpgI have been using Google Reader exclusively until the last week or two when I decided to give NetNewsWire another go. Google Reader is great for me for a few reasons including speedy keyboard navigation, easy feed sharing and I can access it pretty much anywhere.


A couple people have commented that the Newsgator products are too limiting because they are software installs and are therefore machine dependent. This isn’t the case. FeedDemon and NetNewsWire will sync with Newsgator Online for free and that gives you a Web-based feedreader which you can access via your browser or mobile device (m.newsgator.com – just like Google Reader’s mobile site). Unfortunately Newsgator Online is not as good as Google Reader so if that is really important to you, you may want to stick with Google Reader. The mobile interface is pretty good though for what it is. I haven’t been able to get the (now) free Newsgator Go! client installed and working on my Nokia N73 yet. I tried it out previously and it is a fantastic mobile feed app. If only I could get this working on my N73 …

I’ve been using NNW exclusively for the last few days as part of a trial of sorts and, as Stii commented, the interface in NNW (and the Windows equivalent, FeedDemon is pretty good looking too) is awesome. It is certainly a lot more readable than Google Reader and there seems to be more screen real estate in NNW. It is important to me that I be able to share feed items I find interesting. If you take a look at my sidebar you will see a Google Reader widget which took me a few minutes to customise and publish to the site. You will also see a Newsgator widget I just created using some default options. I was initially going to write that the Newsgator options are cumbersome and not nearly as user-friendly as the Google Reader widget options but then I actually tried the Newsgator widget framework out and, lo and behold, Newsgator has a pretty powerful widget framework. This Newsgator widget is highly customisable and there are some awesome options which include this one:

This widget uses an accordion style and took me a few minutes to create. If you are a little more savvy when it comes to design, you can create some pretty awesome looking widgets.

I suppose out of all of this so far, the one disappointment is the Newsgator Online service. The site can be unresponsive to mouse clicks and it is a little difficult to figure out how to perform certain functions like marking all feeds in a folder as read instead of just the current page and removing all subscriptions to make way for a new OPML upload. This issue aside, there are some pretty compelling reasons to go this route of a hybrid desktop-web feedreader solution. For those people who prefer to only use an offline feedreader, you can do that too. You just don’t synchronise your feeds. NNW or FeedDemon will work as a standalone feedreader. There is also integration into Outlook for those who spend all their time in Outlook.

There is one other thing I would like to see in NNW though. I would like to have more control over which types of enclosures I download automatically. At the moment the options are to automatically download audio and/or “other” enclosures. “Other” enclosures include videos which doesn’t help me if not wanting to automatically download enclosures is to preserve my precious bandwidth.

If you would like to read a couple more perspectives on the announcement, take a look at this post on the Newsgator blog which contains a number of links to external sites talking about this.

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