Web Applications

RSS Reader Review (2023)

After every social media convulsion there is always a view that we’re heading back to blogs again. Regardless of whether this is true or not there is always an uptick in posting and blogs are definitely better for any kind of long form content compared to a 32 post “thread” on any kind of microblogging social platform. So I’ve been revising my line up of RSS readers (like email I use a few) and I wanted to post my notes on what I’ve tried and what I’ve ended up using.

My first key point of frustration is viewing content on a phone browser; my primary reader (which I migrated to from Google Reader) is Newsblur but the design of the site is not responsive and is large screen focused. My second issue is specifically around Blogger sites; while these do have a mobile view most of the themes for Blogger feel unreadable and harsh on smaller screens. Not to mention the cookie banner that is always floating around.

I have been using Feedbin whose main feature is that it can consolidate content from Twitter, RSS and email newsletters into a single web interface. It does deliver this promise but while its small screen experience and touch interface has been considered, the resulting UI is quite fiddly with a side-swipe scheme for drilling in and out of content and I often need to switch out of its default rendering mode to get something that is easy to read. I’m still using Feedbin to follow news sources on Twitter but have mostly given up on RSS there except indirectly through topic subscriptions.

I want to give an honourable mention here to Bubo RSS. This is essentially a static site builder that reads your subscriptions and builds a set of very lightweight pages that list out all the recent posts and uses the visited link CSS property to indicate the unread items. In the end this didn’t really solve my reading issues as you just link through to the original site rather than getting cleaned up small screen friendly view. However its idea of building a mini-site from your RSS feed and then publishing a static site would solve a lot of my problems. I was almost tempted to see if I could add a pull of the content and a Readability parse but I sensed the size of the rabbit hole I was going into.

Another great solution I found was Nom which is a terminal RSS reader written in Go. You put your subscriptions into a config file and then read the content via the terminal. If I had any feedback for Nom it would be that the screen line length is not adjustable and the default feels a bit short. The pure text experience was the best reading experience for the Blogger subscriptions I have but ultimately I wanted something that I could read on a mobile phone web browser.

In the end the thing that has been working for me was Miniflux. You can self-host this but the hosted option seemed cheaper to me than the cost of the required hosting. I had only one issue with Miniflux’s reading mode out of the box which was to do with margins on small screens.

I thought I might have to try and get a PR organised but helpfully you can save a custom CSS snippet in the settings and with a few lines of customisation I was entirely happy with the reading experience. This is now what I’m using to read RSS-based content on my phone.