Since announcing the end of FeedDemon last week, I've been overwhelmed by the number of people who say they're sad to see it go. Many of these people have told me they want to keep using it.
So here's what I'm going to do: sometime before the demise of Google Reader, I'll release a new version of FeedDemon which no longer syncs with Google Reader. This version will be free, won't contain any ads, and will have all of the features of the Pro version. You can use it free of charge for as long as you like - but it will be the last version of FeedDemon.
It's been impossible to respond to the many tweets asking me about open-sourcing FeedDemon, or making it sync with another service. So I'd like to address those questions here.
First, open-sourcing FeedDemon sounds nice, but I don't see it working. I use a number of commercial third-party components which can't be open-sourced, and some of them are older versions that I've modified quite a bit. Perhaps more importantly, FeedDemon was developed in Delphi 7, which is very out of date. Delphi geeks will recall that version was released before the product supported Unicode, so all the Unicode support you see in FeedDemon was added by me (using owner draw, custom string routines, etc.). Long story short: it would be easier to write a new RSS reader than it would be to upgrade FeedDemon's code to the latest Delphi version (which would need to be done).
Second, switching to another sync service isn't practical. It's not as simple as just using a different set of endpoints for API calls, as some have suggested. No matter how close the new sync API is to Reader's, there will be differences that require a lot of attention. Reliably syncing RSS feeds is a ton of work, and as I mentioned in my previous post, I already have a full-time job as an Android developer and just wouldn't be able to devote extra time to switching sync platforms.
I don't take the end of FeedDemon lightly - after all, it has occupied a huge chunk of my life since I created it back in 2003. But I haven't been able to give it any attention for quite some time, and it has earned very little for the past few years. Really, it's time for me to let it go.
PS: As expected, the end of both Google Reader and FeedDemon have brought a fresh round of articles saying "RSS is dead," which is way off-base. Google Reader and FeedDemon represent the "old school" of RSS readers: they were designed for geeks and held little mass-market appeal as a result. There are plenty of popular "new school" feed readers with new approaches, and most of them don't even call themselves RSS readers or even mention that they rely on RSS (which is a good thing, since most customers don't care about the plumbing).
This is a hard post for me to write.
I've used FeedDemon every day since I created it back in 2003 - it's part of my daily workflow, the first thing I turn to after pouring myself a cup of coffee in the morning.
I've thoroughly enjoyed working on it and I'm grateful for all of the people who paid for it over the years despite free alternatives.
But it's time for FeedDemon to die.
If you're an avid FeedDemon user, you probably know that I've struggled to keep it updated. FeedDemon stopped "paying the bills" a while ago, so I took a full-time job elsewhere and haven't been able to give FeedDemon the attention it deserves.
Then today came the news that Google Reader is shutting down on July 1. FeedDemon relies on Google Reader for synchronization, and there's no decent alternative (and even if there were, it's doubtful I'd have time to integrate with it, at least not without trading time away from my family - which I won't do).
That was the nail in the coffin for me. I hate to say goodbye to FeedDemon after a decade of working on it, but it's time to say goodbye. When Google Reader shuts down on July 1, FeedDemon will also disappear.
If you're using FeedDemon without Google Reader synchronization, it will continue to work beyond July 1. You can keep using it to read your feeds for years to come. If you're synching FeedDemon with Google Reader, you can disable synching by selecting Tools > Options > Synchronization Options, then switching to the "Accounts" tab and removing your Google account.
I'm truly sad to see FeedDemon go - it's been so much fun working on it, using it, and engaging with other people that use it. For those of you that rely on FeedDemon, thank you for supporting it for so long, and my apologies for not being able to keep it going.
The biggest change in FeedDemon 4.1 is that the social features which relied on Google Reader have been removed. Their removal was necessary because Google announced a while back that it was dropping the social features from Google Reader.
That's the most noticeable difference in the new version, but under the hood it's also faster than ever, and it fixes a number of problems customers have reported. A complete list of changes can be found in the release notes, or you can skip all that and download FeedDemon 4.1 now.
Just install this new version directly on top of the previous version - there's no need to uninstall first.
Last night the changes to Google Reader went live, and as promised, they've removed the sharing features. This means that the sharing features in FeedDemon which rely on Google Reader will eventually stop working, so I'm forced to remove them.
A few years ago I wrote about the pain and pleasure of killing features, but deleting sharing from FeedDemon has been all pain and no pleasure. Those features took a long time to create, and I relied on them every day. Seeing what my friends are sharing, and sharing back with them, has become part of my daily routine.
I don't fault the Reader team for removing those features - it makes sense for Reader to integrate more tightly with Google+. And I certainly don't fault them for eventually removing those features from their unofficial API. If anything, I want to thank them for letting developers such as myself use their API for free for so long.
But I'm surprised that the Reader team didn't make the transition to Google+ an easy one. I realize that Reader users are a dwindling bunch, and most of them never used the sharing features. But many of those who relied on sharing are influencers, including well-known tech journalists, bloggers and developers. It strikes me as a bad idea to leave these people with a sour first impression of Google+, yet that will be the result of the painful transition from Reader sharing to Google+ sharing.
As far as FeedDemon goes, in a few days I'll have a build ready which removes the sharing features. But I'm going to hold off releasing this build for a little while since sharing still works at the API level. In other words, right now you can still use the Reader sharing features in third-party apps like FeedDemon even though those features aren't available in Reader itself.
Before the end of the year, though, there will be a new FeedDemon release which does away with sharing, and every FeedDemon customer will need to upgrade. That pains me, because like every developer, I'm used to having new releases improve upon previous ones. For some this release will feel like a downgrade, and I know I'll take some heat for it since many customers won't be aware of the reasons for the loss of sharing.
Yesterday Google announced some big changes to Google Reader which will impact FeedDemon (and every other application that uses the unofficial Google Reader API).
In an effort to better integrate with Google+, Reader is retiring friending, following and shared link blogs. That means the social features in FeedDemon that rely on Google Reader will eventually stop working.
They won't stop working right away, though. Google will continue to support those features in its API even after they disappear from Reader's UI. But at some point (I don't know when yet) they will cease to function, and you'll be unable to share articles in FeedDemon or follow the shared articles of other users.
Before that happens, I'll release a new version of FeedDemon that removes those features. But I won't do that until the new Reader goes live and I have a chance to test against it, which will likely take a few weeks.
I am, of course, disappointed to see those features disappear. I know a lot of FeedDemon customers will miss them, and I'll personally mourn the loss of shared articles since that's something I use every day.
By now, FeedDemon 4.0 is in the hands of thousands of customers, many of whom are disappointed to discover that it's no longer free (well, there is a free ad-supported version, but the full feature set is only available in the for-pay Pro version).
Explaining how this came to be requires some history, so bear with me here…
When FeedDemon became free back in 2008, I was still working for NewsGator, and the goal was to promote the NewsGator brand (especially the enterprise products) by getting consumer products like FeedDemon into the hands of as many people as possible. I was among those who thought this was a good idea, and I'm sure it helped spread NewsGator's name.
But a year later it was decided that we still needed to generate revenue from FeedDemon, so we inserted non-intrusive ads which we hoped would earn a few dollars without pissing too many people off. But of course, it did piss people off, especially those who purchased FeedDemon before it became free and were now faced with advertising (which is generally accepted on the web but not in desktop software).
Much to our surprise, there were also people who said they'd pay to get rid of the ads. We hadn't planned for that, but it's hard to ignore customers demanding that they be able to pay you, so we scrambled to come out with a version that enabled purchasing a serial number to get rid of the ads.
Then just over a year ago, I was let go from NewsGator. For the record, it was the right decision, and there are absolutely no bad feelings between myself and NewsGator. They treated me very well while I was there, and I'm still friends with my co-workers.
But that left me in a tight spot: I had to pay the bills with whatever money FeedDemon generated, and as popular as FeedDemon is, it's not popular enough to bring in enough cash through ads alone. And very few people were paying just to get rid of the ads (can you blame them?).
For a year I kept FeedDemon free, and I started work on FeedDemon 4.0 in the hopes I could find a way to keep it free yet still pay the bills. But eventually it was clear that the only way to keep FeedDemon (and myself) going was to start charging for it again, and I figured the best way to do that was to come out with a free ad-supported Lite version with fewer features, along with a for-pay Pro version that had all the features and no ads. That way there would still be a free version, which I knew had to exist, while at the same time there would be a way I could charge for a more feature-rich version.
Of course, I realize many of you aren't happy about this, and it's not just because you expect everything for free – more likely you're tired of the constant shift in FeedDemon's business model (believe me, I'm tired of it, too!). I really am sorry for all the changes. Honestly, in retrospect making FeedDemon free wasn't a great idea. It would've been far better to have a free Lite version and a for-pay Pro version from the start and to have stuck with that model.
Given all these changes, I'm flattered that so many of you have stuck with FeedDemon over the years, and I thank you for it. Despite the naysayers, I continue to believe that RSS has a bright future, and I plan to keep working on FeedDemon for a long time to come.
FeedDemon 4.0 has been in testing for several months now, and if all goes well the final release will be here soon. This is a major new version with some big additions, including a new "My Stream" feature which provides a great way to keep up with frequently-updating status feeds such as those from Twitter and Facebook. You'll also find new newspaper views, support for Twitter's new authentication system (OAuth), and a host of smaller changes that customers have long requested.
New features aside, FeedDemon 4.0 is also significantly faster than previous versions, and synchronization with Google Reader is more efficient than ever. Plus, the interface has been streamlined and simplified to make it easier to use. Long story short, this is by far the best FeedDemon yet. If you don't want to wait for the final release, you can download a pre-release (beta) version here.
This new version also returns to FeedDemon's roots as a paid application. The final release of FeedDemon 4.0 will come in two flavors – Pro and Lite – which offer different feature sets. FeedDemon Pro will offer the full feature set and will require purchasing a serial number (price TDB). If you purchased a serial number for FeedDemon 3.0, there will be a nice discount when upgrading to the new Pro version. A free ad-supported Lite version with a reduced feature set will also be available.
This isn't 100% cast in stone yet, but the Pro level features at this point are:
I am, of course, very interested to hear the reaction to this change. I know that nobody likes to pay for software, but continuing to make FeedDemon completely free just isn't practical. Developing and supporting FeedDemon takes a lot of time, and I hope you agree that it's worth paying for (or, if not, that you'll be happy with the free Lite version).
I'm very pleased to announce the availability of FeedDemon 3.1. Despite the minor version change, this is a significant release – there are some major new features which I think you're going to love.
Still with me? Good! I'd like to introduce you to some of the new features…
FeedDemon 3.1 Gets Social
My favorite new feature is "Shared by People I Follow." If you're following people in Google Reader, their shared items now appear in FeedDemon, and as I mentioned in my previous post, these shared items are included when finding and suggesting popular items. I've found this to be a great way to uncover interesting articles in feeds I'm not subscribed to.
When an article has been shared by someone, their profile photo appears next to it so you can easily identify who shared it. To view posts shared by a specific person, just click their photo.
If you're not following anyone, FeedDemon makes it really easy to find people to follow – just enter a few keywords:
…and FeedDemon shows a list of people with matching profiles:
Click "Preview" to view a newspaper containing recently shared items from that person, or just click "Follow" to follow them right away. If you get tired of someone, select "Show People I Follow" and click "Unfollow" to stop following them.
In the past you were forced to see every article from every feed you're subscribed to, but now you can use FeedDemon 3.1's "Content Filters" to hide the stuff you don't care about. Just create a content filter, assign it to whichever feeds you like, and articles in those feeds matching the filter will be marked read as soon as they arrive so you don't see them.
Content filters can be used to either include or exclude articles based on your keywords – and if you subscribe to a feed which has several different authors, you can use a content filter to show or hide articles from specific authors.
I personally use this feature to deal with all the high-traffic tech feeds I'm subscribed to which rarely talk about things I care about. Now instead of seeing every single article, I have a content filter which automatically hides stuff that doesn't interest me.
I'm subscribed to a lot of search feeds that tell me when someone blogs or tweets about FeedDemon, which really helps me stay in touch with how people feel about my work. Quite often I'll see something written in a different language, so I have to translate it in order to figure out what it says – a time-consuming process, especially when there are several items that need translating.
FeedDemon 3.1 solves this with the addition of the "translate" icon which now appears beneath each item. Simply click this icon and FeedDemon will translate the item into your language.
And Lots of Small Stuff
So that's a look at the major new features, but as with every release, there are tons of small improvements, changes and fixes in FeedDemon 3.1, all of which are covered in the release notes.
PS: If you have any questions about the new version, rather than post a comment here, I recommend asking in the FeedDemon Support Group instead.