500K users flee dead-RSS-walking Google Reader for Feedly

Free RSS service rakes in customers dumping the slated-for-retirement Reader

Feedly, a free Web-based RSS service that also offers iOS and Android apps, has added half a million new users since Google announced it would pull the plug on its Reader RSS feed this summer.

"More than 500,000 Google Reader users have joined the Feedly community over the last 48 hours," the company said in a blog post Friday. "We love passionate readers. Welcome on board."

The Palo Alto, Calif. company, which provides browser-specific plug-ins for Chrome, Firefox and Safari on the desktop, was one of those that benefited as users fled Google Reader last week.

Google announced Reader's death March 6 as part of another round of housecleaning that axed several other projects. The company cited declining use of Reader for the decision to retire the RSS service and Google's feed on July 1.

Like many other applications and services, Feedly relies on the Google RSS feed to power its service. But Feedly was the first last week to say that it was building its own RSS back end. When Google Reader goes dark, Feedly will move users to a homegrown clone of the Google Reader API (application programming interface), code named Normandy.

That may have resonated with Google Reader users looking for a stable alternative.

Many of those users took to social media networks, including Twitter and Google's own Google Plus, to express their anger and dismay. Others launched online petition drives. The leading petition on Change.org had collected nearly 120,000 signatures as of late Saturday.

While Computerworld experienced some hiccups early Thursday, Feedly has been running smoothly since. According to Feedly, it boosted its Internet bandwidth by a factor of 10, and added additional servers to handle the customer increase.

"We have been focused on keeping the site up," Edwin Khodabakchian, CEO and co-founder of DevHD -- the company behind Feedly -- said in an email reply Thursday to questions about the number of new users at that point. "The database is so busy that we have not had time to run reports yet."

Instead, he cited the fact that the iOS Feedly app had climbed to the No. 1 spot among news apps on Apple's iTunes App Store. It remained in that position late Saturday.

"Our goal over the next 90 days is to actively listen to users, understand their workflows and make Feedly more productive," Khodabakchian said, a comment he reiterated in the Friday blog. He also promised that Feedly would be updated weekly.

Feedly has created a new-user forum where it's soliciting ideas. Among those on the forum were ones requesting an Opera plug-in and a secure HTTPS connection.

The service has also published a tips page for people migrating from Google Reader to Feedly.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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