Fear Not, Google Reader Fans: A Coder Developed an Open-Source Clone
After eight years in existence, on July 1 Google retired Google Reader, its aggregator of web content. Though the decision was due to the RSS reader’s dwindling popularity, it had a loyal fan base, and many of the distraught devotees went in search of a replacement to deliver their web feed fix.
But that wasn’t good enough for Matt Jibson, who decided to use his experience as a member of GitHub’s community of open-source coders to write some lines and create a near duplicate of Google Reader.
On his blog Jibson chronicled the trials he encountered while coding, specifically scalability, the sluggishness of most servers he used, the lack of standards for formatting feeds, and the many, many ways of displaying timestamps. After a few months of work, on June 26 he announced the release of Go Read, which has the same simple design and shortcuts as Google Reader, with a couple of Jibson’s preferences thrown in.
Jibson used AngularJS to make views dynamic, readable, and—most importantly—fast, and all interaction is with JSON. Jibson wrote his program in Google’s Go language using App Engine, and anyone who wants to run it can do so by following instructions to change a single line of code. He gave it a webpage with mobile support, took away the need for users to install additional software or plug-ins, and made it easy to import existing Google Reader and OPML feeds.
Jibson posted Go Read on Hacker News and his code on GitHub, and at the time of publication, it already had more than 8,000 users.
Jibson says he shouldn’t get too much praise for creating a Google Reader clone—he was using basic building blocks, an existing model, and code that was readily available to anyone. Still, he’s the one who did do it, and he kept in his program what people loved about Google Reader—namely, its simplicity.
Many of the alternatives that rushed to fill the void left by Google Reader are plagued with bloat. Go Read gives you what you need in an easily readable format, with the same bells-and-whistles-free UI that Google Reader users appreciated.
Not to say that his reader is going to remain as-is. As quickly as he can code them, Jibson has been steadily adding features such as folder organization, sorting abilities, and support for users with more than a thousand feeds. His goal was to add features as they’re needed or requested, rather than start out with an overly complicated offering.
“I am unlikely to consider major UI changes or great deviations from the standard reader feature set, but good ones could be proposed,” Jibson wrote on his blog. “I plan on using go read and improving it as I can.”