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Black Pixel Sketches Future of NetNewsWire

Many Macintosh eyes have been on Black Pixel since the recent announcement by Google that it would shut down its Google Reader RSS news-feed viewer, aggregator, and synchronization service. Black Pixel is the current owner of NetNewsWire, the most popular Mac newsreading software, which relies on Google Reader for syncing across Macs and iOS devices. Black Pixel posted on its blog that it has been steadily working on a new release of NetNewsWire for Mac and iOS, and has plans to start its own sync service. (For other options, see “Explore Alternatives to Google Reader,” 18 March 2013, and be sure to read “Thoughts Prompted by Google Reader’s Demise,” 14 March 2013.)

NetNewsWire was originally developed by Brent Simmons and released in 2002. He sold it to NewsGator in 2005, but essentially kept doing the same job, updating the software and expanding it to iOS. In 2008, NewsGator switched from a paid and “lite” release to a single ad-supported free version; you could pay to remove ads. At Simmons’s suggestion, NewsGator sold NetNewsWire to Black Pixel in June 2011. Black Pixel has released compatibility upgrades since then.

In the intervening time, Black Pixel chief Daniel Pasco writes, the company has overhauled the Mac version and rewritten the iOS versions from scratch. At the time of the sale to Black Pixel, Simmons realized the amount of work he saw in front of him as a one-man shop to bring NetNewsWire up to date, and was happy to hand it off to a team of developers.

Pasco writes that Black Pixel knew it would need a Google Reader alternative — since Google+ appeared and then sharing features were removed from Google Reader, it has been clear to observers that Google Reader was operating on borrowed time.

Black Pixel originally pursued using iCloud and its Core Data support for syncing database updates. But, as we’ve heard privately and read publicly from many developers who have tried to build syncing services on top of Apple’s offering, iCloud ultimately disappointed. The cloud service may have robust features, but the interfaces it exposes and its options don’t seem to match up well with developers’ needs. Black Pixel will build its own sync option, instead of using iCloud.

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