UPDATED 12:04 EDT / DECEMBER 28 2011


A New RSS Reader With No Sign Up Form – A Google Reader Alternative?

Google changed the Google Reader interface this Fall and scaled back development. Since then a backlash erupted among those who had used it as their primary RSS reader. In particular they missed the “shared” items feature, now replaced by Google+.

The changes forced many Google Reader users to search for a similar service.  Earlier this week a new RSS reader called Subpug emerged that has an entirely different user interface than Google Reader and one feature in particular that may be appealing.

Subpug has no sign up form. All the user data resides in the browser. Subscribe to its packaged feeds, add a feed or import an OPML file and the service remembers you. Subpug will ask you for an email address to synchronize across devices. But that’s to send you a link so you may view your feeds on another device.

Subpub is a lightweight reader. It’s great in that respect. The features work well when there are not hundreds of feeds to load.

Best of all is the user experience and the ease of sharing to different services. The feed shows the entire post with images! That’s a big plus in my book.

It lacks the magical shared folder of Google Reader but I get the impression that the developers of this new reader have plans for that. In the meantime, the sharing aspects are pretty decent. The buttons are not glaring at you like so many services do these days with its icons THAT REMIND YOU IN CASE YOU FORGOT THAT ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS CLICK THIS COW SIZED ICON TO SHARE YOUR EVERY THOUGHT!

Sharing a collection of feeds is relatively simple. You choose the feeds you want to share and a link is generated that you can distribute across different services or via email. To share an item click an icon and a new window appears. That’s not ideal but it works.

Subpug has features that you will not find in Google Reader. It shows comments and the tweets that mention the post.

On the downside, Subpug has some formatting issues in its mobile version. As it is in the browser, it can sometimes take forever to load feeds. And like many RSS readers, unsubscribing is a burden. I am now facing the spectre of unsubscribing from each of my 1000+ feeds. If there is a better way, please let me know. It has so far eluded me.

But Subpug is so easy to try. Without the sign up requirement, you can immediately test it without the friction of creating a user name and password or authenticating through Twitter or Facebook.

This ease of use is having an impact. Apparus is the developer shop out of the United Kingdom that built Subpug. On its blog, they state that most web applications have a standard conversion rate of about 10%. The Subpug developers say they are seeing a conversion rate of 47%.

I would not recommend Subpug as the new alternative to Google Reader. It has not performed well since I imported my 1000+ feeds from Google Reader. It took a bit of time for it to process and it can slow to a crawl when updating the feeds.

Update: You can reset your feeds with a kill switch the developers just released. Be careful. Clicking the link will clear all your feeds from the reader: http://read.subpug.com/reset

But I can see how Subpug with its ease of use can  become addicting. Its UI is far more intuitive than Google Reader and the sharing features are more intuitive.

I expect to continue using Subpug. Further, I see it as an excellent example to other service providers so concerned about getting traction. You don’t need to lock people in to succeed. In fact, doing the opposite may be the smartest route of all.

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