FeedDemon Support Group is Pining for the Fjords

It has been almost three years since the end of FeedDemon, but I’ve kept the Google Group for FeedDemon available for those who needed help.

Legitimate questions posted to the group have slowed to a trickle, but the regular influx of spam that I have to moderate hasn’t abated. So I’ve decided it’s time to close the group.

Rather than kill it outright, for now I’ve made it read-only just in case anyone could benefit from the information it contains.

My Trusty FeedDemon Bag

feeddemon-bagYears ago, when FeedDemon was thriving, I had a canvas FeedDemon bag created for me by CafePress.

I figured it was a novelty, like having a t-shirt made from a picture of your kids when they’re young that you stop wearing once they outgrow the diaper stage.

But instead this bag has remained my trusty companion and shows no signs of getting old. It has outlived FeedDemon itself.

I’ve taken it everywhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about it. Probably for good reason: who wants to ask an obvious geek about their bag when it has a demonic logo on it?

It has been on every vacation with me, carrying sunscreen, towels, and books to the beach. I’ve taken it on business trips to hold my electronics. It has come with me to the grocery store to carry home ice cream, veggies, and beer. Now it goes to the gym with me to hold my headphones, towel, water, and post-workout snack.

It has survived storms, car wrecks, and even plane crashes. This is the Samuel L. Jackson of bags, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasts longer than I do.



Unread Counts

NetNewsWire creator Brent Simmons on unread counts:

Nick Bradbury, FeedDemon author, and I have talked many times over the years about how we’d design an RSS reader were we starting over. The first thing we always say: No unread counts!

It’s true: showing an unread count was something I regretted. It was one of many things I did to make FeedDemon work like an email client so it would seem familiar to new users. I’m sure it did make it seem familiar, but in the long run it was a mistake I never overcame.

Treating RSS like email makes it a chore to read, but customers were so used to FeedDemon working like an email client that any attempt to make it less email-like was met with resistance. So instead I came up with things like the Panic Button which were just band-aids that didn’t address the underlying problem.

Looking back, I wonder how RSS readers would’ve fared if their developers hadn’t followed the email client design. It’s partly because we did that the RSS reader (but not RSS itself) is now considered dead.

The Last Version of FeedDemon is Here, and it’s Free

Shortly after the end of Google Reader was announced, I announced that FeedDemon was also coming to an end. My plan was to release a sync-deprived final version of FeedDemon – free of charge – before Google Reader disappears on July 1.

That last, free version is now available. Here’s the download link.

All of the features of the Pro version of FeedDemon are available in this release, and ads are no longer shown in the bottom left of the screen.

As expected, this final version of FeedDemon does away with Google Reader synchronization. The first time you run it, all of your synched feeds will be converted to “local” feeds with no synching. Note that this won’t affect your actual Google Reader subscriptions – those will remain in Google Reader untouched.

Because Google Reader identifies feed posts differently, you’ll likely see duplicated posts after upgrading to the new FeedDemon. This will resolve itself over a short time.

My thanks to everyone who helped me keep FeedDemon going for so long – when I created it in 2003, I don’t think I would’ve believed it will still be around 10 years later!  It’s been truly fun working on it, and I’m sad to see it go.

PS: If you have a question about FeedDemon, rather than comment here please ask in the FeedDemon Support Group. Thanks!

My Plan for FeedDemon

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).

The End of FeedDemon

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.

ANN: FeedDemon 4.1

This has been a busy week for me! Yesterday I announced the release of Glassboard 2.0, and today I’m announcing that a new version of FeedDemon is finally here.

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.

While you’re here I hope you’ll check out Glassboard, an app designed for private sharing. I write the Android version of Glassboard.

Anti-social FeedDemon (Killing Features, Part II)

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.

What the Upcoming Google Reader Changes Mean for FeedDemon

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.

Why I Decided to Charge for FeedDemon Again

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.