FeedDemon vs NewsGator: why platforms are bad and RSS isn’t email

Several months ago I started writing a review of FeedDemon and NewsGator, together with an explanation of why I switched (twice). Now that FeedDemon has been bought out by NewsGator, it’s probably time to finish that review…

Like Alex Barnett, I actually bought both products (Alex, which one have you used the most, and why?) In my case, I ended up with both due to wishful thinking. After trying the demo versions, I decided on NewsGator, because it would result in one less client app to learn. But after trying really hard to like it, I came back to FeedDemon. Here’s why:

  • FeedDemon does a great job of streamlining the process of reading blogs – I can get in, read the things I’m interested in, and get out. For old timers, FeedDemon is to RSS feeds as trn was to Usenet news: fast, slick, and with enough power features to keep you happy while you teeter on the edge of information overload. By comparison, I believe that NewsGator will always be at a disadvantage because Outlook is fundamentally designed for one thing: reading email. Dare Obasanjo does a far better job of explaining this than I could. Here’s his summary:

    The major problem is that the Outlook mail reading paradigm has a fundamental assumption which turns out to be flawed. It assumes you want to read every item you get in your inbox.
    Omar Shahine switched away from NewsGator for similar reasons, and ended up using FeedDemon.

  • NewsGator should win big from its use of Outlook as a platform, but seems to use Outlook features as a crutch instead of a stepping-stone to better things. For example, I want subjects highlighted instead of authors, I want to filter out read items, and I don’t want an icon in every damn message saying “hey, I’m a message!” In NewsGator this means creating an Outlook view, applying it to every one of my feeds, and then trying to ignore how it all still looks like email. FeedDemon started with nothing, added “newspaper styles” (which use CSS to format feeds any way you want), and now they’re so successful that Dare put support for them into RSS Bandit. This is an example of where a rich client like FeedDemon really shines – with no preconceived notions of how things “should” be, it evolves a much more powerful set of features in response to user demand.

  • Tabs tabs tabs! With FeedDemon I can skim a feed, opening up interesting links in tabs in the background, and then return to read those tabs in depth after I’ve finished skimming. Far faster (and less of a cognitive break) than skim-till-interesting-link, wait-for-it-to-load, read-in-depth, repeat. Nick’s latest version of the “Expando” newspaper style even puts single-click links next to article headings, ready to open in background tabs.

So why are they joining forces? So that NewsGator gets a downloadable desktop aggregator, and FeedDemon gets NewsGator Online sychronization support, according to the Lockergnome interview. But I’m wondering if the bigger picture isn’t, as Marc Orchant points out, a fear of Yahoo and Microsoft moving into the space. I’m not quite as down on the whole deal as James Avery is – after all, I can always jump ship to RSS Bandit, which will still synchronize with something – but I’m definitely in the anti-Outlook camp. Or, as Steve Makofsky puts it, “RSS is NOT email”.

Comments (4)

  1. MSDN Archive says:

    Hi Jonathan. I tried loads of different readers/aggregators in early 2003 and settled for FeedDemon. I’m always trying new ones out and tried Newsgator amongst them. I stuck with FeedDemon for a number of reasons, primarily:

    1. A reader as a desktp app in more performant than web-based. I prefer this.

    2. I prefer a stand-alone app – I don’t like mixing RSS with my email client. I have different ‘modes’ and this seperation matches my use.

    3. Usability. I find FeedDemon easy to use and fast to use.

  2. Zach says:

    I guess I see things a little different. The way I look at it is .. you have FeedDemon and Newsgator.. the Salad Fork and the Meat Fork. They can each do everything I need but I dont need both of them. That leads to the underlying reason why Newsgator is the best in my mind.

    I can throw away my "Salad Fork" because Newsgator has a key feature.. its an Outlook plugin. I already use Outlook every day and when I come in to the office in the morning my email and my "news" is ready and waiting. The other great thing is that beings I am on an Exchange server whenever my feeds download they go right into my mailbox on the server and I can access them from anywhere..including OWA.

    I guess what I’m saying is I only need one fork. I dont need fancy features.. I want my feeds delivered with links to the main article and a small peice of text to give me an idea what the article is about.. its fast and easy.. I can browse through everything in about 15 minutes.

  3. I think I’m with alex on this choice – I have different "modes" for RSS and email. But I can also see Zach’s point – when you’ve got one application that you use anyway, why not just extend it with a plugin?

    I guess it’s another case of "different strokes for different folks": there will never be One True Way to structure an RSS aggregator, because some users will *always* want it to be part of their email client, while other users will *always* want a separate rich client. The competition should keep everyone on their toes 🙂