Digg Reader has officially launched in beta, rolling out first to survey participants, then to the entire pack of early-access users.
"This beta version is aimed first and foremost at Google Reader users looking for a new home in advance of its imminent shutdown," the Digg team wrote in a blog post.
Once connected via a Google account, users will find all folders and feeds ready go to, but probably in need of some organisation; drag and drop folders to suit your needs, and visit the settings page to enable unread counts for each feed.
Digg has taken a few cues directly from the almost-extinct Google Reader, including keyboard shortcuts (tap J and K to move between articles, S to save, D to "Digg," and V to view a URL) and the ability to "Digg" or "like" posts — a feature most RSS readers, including Google's, did away with long ago.
Additional features include saving content to read-it-later services or sharing articles to social networks, the option to read in List or Expanded view, and a search bar for adding feeds.
"And even if you're not a Google Reader refugee, come on in!" Digg said, boasting that newcomers can build a list of sources via Digg's recommended publishers, or simply search for their favourite sites to add.
Just after Google Reader announced its move to Death Row, Digg swooped in with a self-imposed 109-day deadline for its own version of the once-popular reader. And the site beat its own deadline, launching five days before Google Reader goes dark.
"We've heard people say that RSS is a thing of the past, and perhaps in its current incarnation it is, but as daily (hourly) users of Google Reader, we're convinced that it's a product worth saving," Digg's Andrew McLaughlin wrote in the spring.
Digg Reader is currently available only to desktop users, but iPhone and iPad owners should keep their eyes peeled for an iOS version hitting the Apple iTunes Store soon. An Android version is also expected before the end of July.
"Before we get too impressed with ourselves, we want to reiterate that this is very much a beta release," Digg said in its blog. "Our focus over the past 3 months has been to build a simple, clean, fast, uncluttered reading experience. We will be working intensively in the coming months to build out all the remaining features and capabilities on our to-do list."
Items on that list include a better search engine, additional options like "View Only Unread" and "Mark As Unread," useful ways to rank and sort posts, better tools for organising feeds and folders, support for tagging, and more sharing options (LinkedIn, Google+, WordPress, Tumblr, Squarespace, Evernote, Dropbox, Buffer). Digg is also looking to build a browser extension and/or bookmarklet, and add the ability to import and export data.
To join the Digg Reader party, sign up online; as the site continues to scale up, increasingly larger batches of users will be added.
"And of course, we'll be paying close attention to feedback from users," Digg said.