Google’s big announcement that Reader’s days are numbered prompted a mass exodus from the Internet’s most popular RSS reader. People scrambled to back up their precious subscription lists and jumped ship to one or another of a handful of Google Reader alternatives. Sadly, the vast majority of alternatives failed to cope with the strain – thus far Netvibes has barely skipped a beat.
I have used a bunch of different readers in the past, but around a year ago I got onto Netvibes and was rather impressed. While its widget view is a bit of a miss if you have a large number of feeds, the reader view is pure hit. It is basically a cleaner version of Google’s Reader, with a few key differences.
What I Love About Netvibes
- Sorting subscriptions is nice and easy thanks to the drag and drop subscription list on the the left of the screen. Widgets are drag and drop as well.
- A decent amount of content fits on the page
- It is easy to switch between preview and list viewing modes
- In spite of the strain of the Google Reader exodus, it is really fast.
- Facebook signup (in spite of the privacy risk that it entails).
What I Hate About Netvibes
- There is no mass-editing option, which makes it hard to manage a large number of feeds.
- The dashboard system is way more convoluted than it needs to be.
- Unsubscribing is a chore.
When I made the jump to Netvibes, I did so primarily because of its speed. I have used a few different news readers over the years and was interested to try The Old Reader and Newsblur, but both sites were really suffering due to the influx of traffic. At the time of writing, Newsblur is running at a snail’s pace and has suspended free account sign up and The Old Reader has taken over three hours to upload my feeds. Netvibes had my feeds loaded in mere seconds – in fact, I was able to do it twice in a matter of minutes. After messing up the first time, by inadvertently created a huge number of duplicated subscriptions, I deleted my account and started again. In contrast, taking into account the 8,500+ users in the line ahead of me to import their feeds, it will probably take me a week to get the same job done at The Old Reader. Infrastructure is hugely important.
While I love almost everything about Netvibes, there are a couple of sticking points that are a persistent reminder of the smoothly running ship that Google has scuttled. The lack of a mass edit feature means that it is nigh on impossible to make significant changes to a subscription list from the program. There don’t seem to be any workarounds for that either. You can import feed lists but you cannot kill off the list that is already there – which rules out modifying the list offline. The only practical method that I found was to create a whole new account – hardly an ideal situation, but better than manually deleting feed after feed. This brings me to the second issue that I have with Netvibes, unsubscribing is too complicated.
In spite of its foibles, Netvibes sits atop a pretty good pile. There is a lot to like about it, and as for the stuff that we don’t like – as more people start to jump on board, those things will probably start to change.
Score: Five out of five