A few days behind schedule, but still before deadline, Digg's much-hyped new RSS reader finally opened to the public on Friday night. So now everyone from the tech press and early adopters to regular Joes have used the Google Reader replacement from the Betaworks team, and, strangely, the reviews are mixed.
The Digg team announced the official public opening of Digg reader in a blog post on Friday. "After a week of testing and scaling, adding batches of users and improving our infrastructure, we’re happy to fully open Digg Reader to the public!" the post reads. The launch was expected to come on Wednesday, June 26, so the Digg team was slightly behind. But considering they built the entire thing in under 90 days, racing to complete a workable product before Google Reader's July 1 shutdown deadline, the public was willing to grant them an extension.
Tech reporters got their hands on beta invites earlier this week and lots and lots of early, bug-filled reviews followed. For the most part, the professional arbiters of tech taste agreed Digg's rushed reader was a step in the right direction, but it ultimately falls short of being the savior from Google's demise that many hoped it would be. "It’s impressive that Digg was able to produce a functional Google Reader alternative in such a short amount of time, but the service, as it stands today, is not a replacement for Google’s product," writes TechCrunch's Sarah Lacy. "In order to get feed reader to the point of launch, other features had to be sacrificed," she adds.
That lack of features seems to be Digg Reader's downfall according to the critical consensus. Many will urge people looking to replace Google Reader to stick with some of the other RSS options out there. "The Digg Reader web app currently lacks the robust feature set of rivals such as Feedly or Newsblur. But, the service is simple, intuitive, and not set to be killed off anytime soon as Google Reader is as of July 1st," The Verge's Nathan Olivarez-Giles writes. For now. "It's still missing some key functionality—search function, tagging, other service integration—but for something that's only 90 days old, it's hard to argue with the results," says Popular Mechanics' Darren Orf.
But perhaps Digg Reader's best quality is that it exists at all. "Where Google set us adrift, Digg threw us a life-preserver. While it's exciting to see what the future might hold, right now, it's nice enough just to have our heads above water," writes Gizmodo's Mario Aguilar.
Now that the product is out in the world the common people have had a change to weigh in. While the gadget and software world's illuminati may not be bullish on the new product, the plebes are, if only because it's so darn nice to look at. "Oooh, Digg Reader looks good," said one new user. "Digg Reader went live today as a replacement for Google Reader and it looks pretty," said another. "I like the dots indicating popularity in Digg Reader," chimed Quartz's Zach Seward.
Others are infatuated if not blown away by the service. "I guess Digg Reader will be my replacement for Google Reader, so congrats or whatever," said one enthusiastic reviewer. "The new Digg reader is live. It's not amazing, but it is simple and usable and imports all your old Reader stuff," added another satisfied new customer.
The new product is still under construction and will have more new features -- including all the ones people complained were missing -- at some point in the coming days, weeks and months. But people seem thankful they have an easy to use, stripped down replacement for Google Reader at all. It came in under the wire, and it didn't wow people, but that Digg Reader exists is, in itself, an accomplishment. Now they just need to finish building it.