Developer: Brent Simmons
Platform: iPhone & iPad
RSS feed apps used to be a thing in the early days of the App Store, but they’ve since fallen out of fashion. As websites have optimized for mobile and social media has taken on the mantle of news aggregator, far fewer people seem to want or need an app to pull all their daily news sources together.
You could argue that the world needs a good RSS feed reader now more than ever, though, given the dire straights that traditional media is in, and the heinous distortions that are rife on Facebook. And NetNewsWire is precisely that: a good RSS feed app.
Existing RSS apps such as Unread, Reeder, and Feedly continue to provide a polished enough service. But they can also be a little fussy, sluggish, and subject to feature creep. NetNewsWire cuts through the bloat with a light and zippy interface and a thoughtful feature set.
NNW wears its no-nonsense open source directness on its sleeve. Jump into the app for the first time and you’re confronted with the main Feeds page, filled out with what seems to be developer Brent Simmons’s own selections. There’s no step-by-step tutorial with artful animations and stylish fonts here.
You want to delete those initial feeds? It’s as simple as swiping them to the left, or long-pressing and hitting Delete. You want to add your own news feeds in their place? Of course you do – just hit the + button at the bottom right of the screen and tap in the URL of your favorite website or blog feed.
NNW places a certain amount of trust in its users’ base level of intelligence and tech-savviness. It seems to know that its users understand the basic language of apps after more than a decade. Thankfully it does so with good taste and judgement, and without devolving into esoteric nerdiness.
Simple but welcome little touches abound, such as the way it automatically pastes in a copied URL when adding a feed. Or the ability to quickly mark all as read on a feed-by-feed or account-by-account basis.
Talking of accounts, you can also import feeds from a couple of other RSS feed services in Feedbin and Feedly, which takes much of the sting out of switching services.
NNW is unlikely to restore us to the glory days of the RSS feed reader boom. With the shuttering of Google Reader in 2013 and the subsequent shift to other technologies, not all websites are set up to provide RSS feeds these days. You’ll quite often find yourself confronted by an error message when you try to add one in the app.
But there’s still ample scope to build your own custom news hub, and NNW is one of the cleanest and least annoying ways to achieve a balanced news diet in some time.
- Clean, bloat-free UI
- Fast performance
- Thoughtful features
- No guidance on use
- RSS use not as widespread as it used to be