New NetNewsWire sync option isn't for everyone

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NewsGator’s recent announcement about the NetNewsWire 3.2 beta (NNW from here on out) was a sad event for me. Despite a number of intriguing new features, there are a few key changes in NNW that mean I’m now looking for a suitable replacement.

You may be thinking this is a rant about the new space for advertisements in NNW, but that’s not the case. NNW is a terrific product, and the company is well within its rights to make money off the product. A future paid version of NNW will support ad-free viewing, for those who find the ads offensive. This is interesting, as it’s basically full-circle back to where NNW was a few years ago. (It’s unknown whether those people who bought a paid version of NNW in the past will be granted any sort of discount on the new ad-free version.)

The main reason I’m now looking to replace NetNewsWire is that, going forward, syncing across multiple Macs will only be possible via Google Reader. In the present version, sync was available via NewsGator or MobileMe (.Mac); after testing both services, I settled on syncing via MobileMe.

NewsGator has decided to get out of the sync business, so it’s obvious why support for that sync method has gone away. But why too must MobileMe sync vanish? Millions of Mac users have MobileMe accounts, which makes the removal of MobileMe sync from NNW hard to understand. The cynic in me would think it was purely monetary—unlike Google Reader, there’s no money to be made with MobilMe sync.

I know Google Reader is very popular, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to use it—people like me, for instance, would rather not. I have no desire to have Google involved in syncing my newsfeeds. It’s not that there’s anything embarrassing in there (OK, you got me; yes, I have the BoingBoing feed in my subscription list), but that I’d just rather not have Google involved in processing my feeds.

Why not? No particular reason other than I can’t think of a good reason why Google should be involved. As such, I’d rather leave the company out of the loop. With MobileMe sync, my data resides on my iDisk, and I know exactly where it is—I can even, if I wish, connect to my iDisk and easily delete it. I also know Apple’s not really in the business of making money off of people’s data (iTunes’ Genius feature notwithstanding), so Apple has little reason to have an interest in my feeds.

If I sync via Google Reader, my feed list flows through the machinery that is Google—and no, the company has never been shown to do anything overtly evil. But at least some of Google’s revenue is generated from (anonymized and generalized) data about what its users are doing. I’m not sure what that would mean relative to my RSS feeds—perhaps the ads I’d see would be targeted at me based on my subscription list? But whatever it means, I don’t want to be part of it. I’m not overly paranoid about privacy, but in the case of Google, I prefer to keep my data to myself.

Outside of the data issue, there are feature-related reasons behind my hunt for a new news aggregator. As noted on the NetNewsWire 3.2 to do list/bugs page, NNW may lose support for nested folders: “Google Reader doesn’t support this. I have some ideas about how to make it work, at least locally, but I don’t really know yet what to do.” With around 200 RSS subscriptions, judicious use of folders and subfolders helps keep me sane and appeals to my sense of organization. Subfolders let me keep little-read feeds collapsed yet still easily accessible.

The other big (possible) loss is Clippings. Clippings are a way to store and organize stories you’d like to read at a later date. You can create your own folders within the Clippings folder, and easily place articles there for future reference. As with nested folders, there’s no parallel in Google Reader, so as of now, clippings aren’t supported in NetNewsWire 3.2 beta. Clippings may make it in some form before the final release; the developers are working on it.

There are some other minor feature quibbles in the present beta, but most of those look like they’ll be resolved over time. But if nested folders and clippings are indeed gone, that’d be reason enough to find another RSS client.

Even if those features make the final version, though, the “only sync via Google Reader” issue is a show-stopper for me. That’s really too bad—I’ve been using NNW for years, and it’s a treasured app. But I’m not going to continue if my only sync option is via Google Reader.

Unfortunately, sync is hard, and I know the list of possible replacements is short—possibly as short as “none” (anyone have any candidates in mind?). Even though the search may be futile, I’m going to start looking now, and I’ll share anything I discover. Goodbye NetNewsWire; it’s been a great ride, but I’m not getting on the Google Reader bus.

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