Google Reader: Time to Plan Your Exit Strategy

We have less than one month until Google Reader closes its doors forever. Despite the pleas and protests, Google is unlikely to have a change of heart. The world’s most-used and successful RSS reader will cease to be on July 1, 2013.

While there are alternatives such as Feedly, many depend on Google Reader for managing feeds. There are no painless migration guarantees. Whatever options you’re considering, it’s essential to back-up the feed URLs and starred items you’ve collected during the past eight years. You won’t find much help in Reader itself, but the process isn’t difficult…

1. Log in at Google Takeout

Head to google.com/takeout and log in with the Google account ID and password you use for Reader.

2. Select Google Reader

You probably won’t need or want to download all your data (unless you’re completely abandoning Google), so hit the Choose Services tab followed by the Reader icon:

Google Reader Takeout

Takeout will calculate the approximate size of your archive.

3. Download Your Data

Hit the CREATE ARCHIVE button. The process should take no more than a few seconds but, if you have a considerable quantity of data, you can ask to be emailed once it’s complete.

Once created, click the blue Download button to retrieve a file named <your-email>-takeout.zip.

You can return to the Downloads tab at any time should you wish to download again.

The Files

The archive contains a Reader folder with eight files:

  • subscriptions.xml — your subscriptions in OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) format. This can normally be imported into most good RSS Readers
  • starred.json — starred URLs with descriptions in JSON format
  • liked.json — items you liked
  • notes.json — your notes about items
  • following.json — users you follow
  • followers.json — users following you
  • shared.json — items you shared
  • shared-by-followers.json — items shared by your followers

Where Next?

The big question is: what are the options for ex-Google Readers?

Google Reader’s demise leaves a large RSS-shaped hole on the web. Google killed many competitors and there are few alternatives which offer a great web and mobile experience backed by a reliable network infrastructure.

Personally, I’m going to continue with Google Reader until the absolute end in the deluded hope they’ll reprieve the service. However, there are a number of options I’m investigating — stay tuned for 12 Free Google Reader Alternatives on SitePoint soon.

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