Google Reader: Time to Plan Your Exit Strategy

By Craig Buckler
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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 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>

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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  • I think your hope of Google keeping Reader is somewhat a lost hope. Personally, like many I have moved over the Feedly – it has a view mode that is pretty much bang on to the layout of Google Reader (with similar keyboard shortcuts too) – and a “star” like system – which is how I like to read my news (I quick sweep of today’s stories – star what I like, then cherry pick away when I have time).

    Also, they announced this week they are going to be working with iPhone/Android Google Reader apps to get them working with their service – Reeder on iOS is part of this work, which I’m pretty excited about – as it’s been sitting dormant on my iPhone for way too long. Having said that, the iOS/Android Feedly apps aren’t too bad either.

    • You’re probably right, but I’ll keep using it to the end. I have a lot invested in Reader and, while I do have a plan, I won’t implement it until all hope is gone.

      Several of the RSS applications are starting to add Reader-like views. Feedly is good, but I hope the transition to their own RSS engine is smooth and they release a web-based version (I’d rather not use a browser-specific add-on).

  • Edwin

    Also switched to Feedly some time ago, it’s even much better than Google Reader was. Definitely recommend it!

  • Alex K

    Do you mind also reviewing paid options? I don’t mind paying a couple bucks a month for a service I use daily, but I don’t have the ability to test all of them :)

    I’m really waiting to switch to see what Reeder for Mac will support. I keep hoping for an update!

  • I think it’s costly and needs much amount as compared to other alternatives , but it’s more secure then any others that’s why i will continue with google reader.

  • Google Reader Existing Closed Due to Google+1 and others… Looks like Digg is using the gap left by Google Reader to reinvent itself.

  • @turborogue

    Hey Craig..if you’re looking for any suggestions at all, I’d second Feedly. I’ve been using it on my iPad for a while now, and only issue I’ve found with it so far is that you can’t seem to mark articles as unread (which is kind of a pain), but you can apparently ‘save’ them for later once you’ve clicked into it. Less intuitive but workable imho.

    In addition I also use a Firefox extension called Brief. I’ve been using it for years and have found it to be the simplest and cleanest of the interfaces that I’d tried (and I’ve tried a LOT). The main drawback is that it is not web based. BUT that being said, if you’re one of those like me who just reads you feeds when you’re sitting behind your desk/lap-top, I still it find the best/easiest.

    My .02 :)

    • You can mark articles unread in Feedly. If you are viewing an article, just click the menu button on the top right of your screen, and in the dropdown, click the hollow circle icon. This will mark that article Unread. Also, Feedly announced in a recent blog post that if you start using Feedly before the Google Reader kill date, it will move all of your feeds over to Feedly’s servers automatically for you. So once Google Reader goes bye-bye, all your feeds will be safe.

  • Looking forward to hearing the alternatives.

    I also heard that is welcoming over Google Reader users.

  • Cmd_Z

    Since this is a web site for web developers, may I suggest Fever?

    It’s a one time charge of $30 (totally fair) and runs on your own web server (PHP, MySQL). You get total control over your RSS future. It has an innovative thermometer metaphor for “hot” content, but otherwise works just like Google Reader in that you have a single place to manage your read and favorited articles from anywhere.

    – Reeder for iPhone supports it (crossing fingers for iPad and Mac)
    – Web page interface (not my favorite, but totally workable)
    – If I convince enough other people to demand it, maybe it’ll go mainstream enough to be supported by other RSS apps for iOS and Mac.

    I’ve tweaked my Fever web page with custom CSS to make it the way I want it (again, this is a site for web developers). I’m not against a paid service, but every time I fall in love with an app or service, Google-like entities buy it and/or kill it. This sits on *my* server and continues to work as long as I choose to make it work.

    RIP Google Reader