Some time ago I tested and approved Bloglines as a feed reader, after I became worried about Google’s confidentiality policy. But the good thing on writing blogs is that you get feedback, and some readers pointed out a few shortcomings in Bloglines: (1) it’s not being developed for years; and (2) as a hosted service, it may have the same confidentiality issues as the Google services. But, best of all, I was offered an alternative: Tiny Tiny RSS, or tt-rss for the intimates.
There’s even a public Tiny Tiny RSS server, but it is not accepting new users by now. Anyway, one of the key points of using tt-rss is being able to install it on your own computer, be it local or remote, just like you can have your own Piwik install. I don’t know any admin panel that helps you install Tiny Tiny RSS, though, so one most use the command line. As usual, you need to unpack a file in the corresponding directory, and set up a MySQL or PostgreSQL database. But tt-rss can’t install the database schema: you do it yourself.
You also have to edit the config file by hand, and it is a little longer than the WordPress one. There are two possibilities when it comes to updating the feeds: you can either run Tiny Tiny RSS as a daemon, or use a cronjob to run a specific script. DreamHost and, I guess, other shared hosting services don’t allow users to run daemons, so I had to go with the cronjob. The hardest part was the incompatibility with PHP4, which was resolved editing a library following the official instructions. Anyway, DreamHost should set PHP5 as the default version anytime soon.
Once installed, Tiny Tiny RSS has a feature set similar to those found in Bloglines or Google Reader, except for Google Buzz. I opted for a single user install, so I couldn’t test the social features, but I know for sure that I could pick some articles to show up in my user account’s feed, and other people would be able to read them that way.
One of the good things in online feed readers is that, when you open it, it already updated the feeds, while Liferea and similar apps have to update feeds when you would like to be already reading them. On the other hand, online apps are less responsive to small operations such as moving from a feed to another, due to the Internet latency. I could install tt-rss on my local computer, but then I wouldn’t be able to access it from other places, and I would expend a considerable amount of electricity. (When I stopped letting my computer turned on 24/7, my electricity bill dropped by 30%.)
To be honest, Tiny Tiny RSS still have to mature a lot, for example with automatic database schema installation, or automatic upgrading. It is already very usable, though. For some reason, this is the only online app I learned the keyboard shortcuts. I use them all the time in local apps, but not with online apps.
The biggest issue with Tiny Tiny RSS is that most people don’t have any fun installing applications on remote computers. But I think it would be interesting to have tt-rss installed on schools, companies or other organizations, where users would have something in common and thus would be more likely to enjoy sharing feed items. Another intriguing possibility would be installing Tiny Tiny RSS on a public server, and then monetizing it with ads or something else. The hard part would be having a differential on such a competitive market.
I would like also to mention that, while I wrote this article, I learned about Gregarious, which shares the same mission as Tiny Tiny RSS: to develop a free software online feed reader you can install on your own computer (local or remote). But, unlike tt-rss, Gregarious isn’t actively developed for 18 months now.