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Google Reader ends today: Switch while you can

(MoneyWatch) Google routinely turns off products and services that aren't popular, profitable, or on brand. Over the last few years, we've seen all sorts of Google-branded sites go away, including Google Wave, iGoogle, Google Video. And dozens more -- in fact, a recent study shows that Google shuts down 35 percent of its services.

The latest -- and most publically contentious -- is Google Reader, the RSS reader that many users rely on to digest streams of news from a vast array of sites. Reader is being shut down today, so if you use Google Reader even occasionally and haven't established a Plan B yet, this is your last opportunity.

Before you do anything else today, you should get a copy of your Google Reader subscriptions from Google Takeout. Tomorrow is too late; you should get this today. To do that, just visit the page, click Create Archive, and then click Download when the archive is complete. Save the file somewhere on your PC and extract the file called subscriptions.xml -- this is what your Google Reader alternative will want to pick up where you left off.

The good news is that there are a lot of alternatives to choose from. The online community responded decisively to Google's decision to end Reader, and you can move on to a reader that is essentially identical to Google Reader, or try your hand at something flashier. Options abound. Here are some of the best, but there are others as well:

The Old Reader is a simple RSS reader that looks and behaves almost exactly like Google Reader -- so this is a good choice if you want an RSS reader without learning anything new.

Feedly is one baby step away from Google Reader -- you can configure it to work more or less like the reader you're used to, but it has a modern look and has a lot of options for customizing its appearance.

Digg Reader is brand new -- so new it just went online a few days ago -- and builds on the basic Google Reader interface with enhanced sharing and integration features.

Pulse is a radically different news reader experience -- this service delivers your RSS articles in the form of a glossy magazine. You might like the aesthetic (and many people do) but personally, I want a simple, linear, Google Reader-style delivery. In other words, my personal choice was to go with The Old Reader.

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