Digg Reader Adds Top Requested Features, But Still A Long Way From Replacing Google Reader

Digg Reader, the Betaworks-backed alternative to the now-dead Google Reader, is making progress in becoming a more solidified platform for serious feed reading. Shortly after its launch a couple of weeks ago, it switched on the ability to display unread counts for feeds and folders, and last night, it added two more of users’ top requested features, the ability to view “only unread” items and the “mark as unread” option.

In the grand scheme of things, these are minor upgrades to a long-term roadmap where Digg envisions building a more fully fledged RSS reading experience – not just one that’s on par with where Google Reader left off, but one that eventually extends beyond the original feature set to include things like a view into the popularity of posts across your network, advanced social-media sharing capabilities, and of course, the ability to feed posts to Digg.com’s front page.

But the update also comes at a time when Google Reader’s former users have been able to process what the post-Reader ecosystem is really like, and frankly, it’s just not up to par. Those in hopes of replacing Google Reader with something better have largely been let down.

Forerunner Feedly, for example, a top pick for its customization capabilities, API that supports a variety of clients, and most importantly, its ability to work cross-platform, struggled after Reader’s closure. The company’s iOS application faced a debilitating bug in early July, which rendered the app unusable until Apple approved the update a week later.

And while it seemed like the ecosystem was ripe with choices in the wake of the Reader shutdown, the large majority of them today, including News Blur, Digg, Feedly, Reeder and others, still lack some critical pieces that had been a part of the Google Reader experience. RSS startups often launch only as just a web or desktop app with no mobile strategy, or they lack basic organizational and categorization features, or, in nearly all cases, they don’t offer built-in search. And few reader apps offer quite the same snappiness that Google Reader once had, whether when forcing a refresh or rapidly j, k‘ing through the headlines.

We may not have a functional replacement for Google Reader until year-end, it seems, if not later. In the meantime, users may find they don’t miss Google Reader as much as they thought. Losing Reader may end up being the kick in the pants some needed to move on to more modern reading platforms like Flipboard, or even social media outlets like Twitter. Time will tell.

As for me, I’m clinging onto my OPML until it’s ripped from my cold, dead hands, having moved to Feedly on the web and Android, and Reeder on the iPhone. It’s not ideal, but serves well as the methadone to what once was a serious Google Reader addiction.