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'Keep Google Reader Running' Petition Hits 100K; Fans Audition Replacements

Google's announcement this week that it will kill its Reader product on July 1 prompted moans of despair from those who rely on the free RSS service to monitor headlines. To illustrate the level of dependency they've come to feel, some are comparing the move to Google abandoning search.

The complaints are still rolling in — as of Friday afternoon, a petition at had gathered more than 100,000 signatures, protesting the move Google announced on its blog Wednesday. Google says that while the service it began in 2005 "has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined."

That decline has been attributed to people relying on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook both to stay current on headlines, and to stay connected with a community of people they're interested in — two strengths that helped Google Reader's fast initial growth.

Many observers see the move to retire Reader as Google prodding its users to engage more fully with Google+, the social network. Some folks will likely do that — but many people are also looking for new RSS readers, and they're comparing notes about possible contenders.

In the discussions, a consensus of criteria emerged, calling for a simple and reliable RSS reader that serves up headlines, stories and news digests in an efficient design, without advertising. And it should work well in both browsers and smartphones' operating systems.

At the website Replace Reader, which uses tweets to tally votes for Google replacements, the Feedly service was in the lead, with NewsBlur in second place.

Not far behind was The Old Reader, which is reportedly based on an older design of Google Reader. Or you can go in the other direction, visually at least, and try out Netvibes, which has a glossy, customizable look. In a similar vein, there's Flipboard, but the smooth design of that service is only available on smartphones and tablets.

Similarly, Taptu offers a sharp, clean user experience, and it offers versions for Nook and Blackberry users, as well. In the future, another option might come from Digg; the link-sharing community says it's building its own reader service.

Many of the RSS services that might replace Reader are free — up to a point. For instance, NewsBlur allows you to subscribe to receive stories from as many as 64 sites for free; if you want more than that, you'll need an upgraded account, which costs about $2 a month.

If you're wondering how you might export your RSS subscriptions to another reader, Google says you can use its Google Takeout service to download. And in the wake of Google's announcement, almost all of the services listed here are posting special "How to import your subscriptions from Reader" instructions.

If you've tried some of these RSS options, let us know what you thought. And if you have a favorite that we didn't include here (there are many of them out there, no offense intended) — share with your friends.

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