December 15, 2007

I Have Seen the Future of Social RSS Feed Readers

Reading one's RSS feeds today is a journey of isolation.

Whether you use Google Reader, NewsGator or BlogLines, the typical interaction with a new feed item is to read it, and then move on, until you hit the next item. Some feed readers, including Google, have let you take things a step further, by sharing your favorites in a shared items link blog.

Recently, Google has made some noise about getting more interactive, through recommending feeds based on your Web history and subscriptions, or show that multiple people with link blogs shared a specific item.

Good. But not good enough. Not nearly enough.

Despite these efforts, I have no idea, for the most part, who my RSS feed suscribers are, and Google Reader doesn't tell me who is reading my shared link blog, what are the most popular shared items, or what my friends are reading. While I'm going through hundreds of feeds a day and almost a thousand items, I am not telling people what I think. I'm not adding comments, and I'm not getting social with others like me reading the same thing. And when I find something on the Web I'd like to share via Google Reader, I can't do it.

Google Reader can't do this...

Google Reader can't do this either...

And you know what? I don't think Google is going to get me there. After all, it took the company's interns to deliver their newest features... and some former Googlers are showing how easy it is to make new, more social, services, like FriendFeed, while Google stays comparatively quiet.

Today, I got a sneak peek preview of a brand-new application, called AssetBar, set to hit the Web in the next month, which not only lets you read your feeds, and share what you find the most interesting, but lets you select friends based on your interests, lets you share individual items with one or more friends directly, tells you how many times a feed or item has been read, and what others think about it.

The tool even lets you go beyond feeds, offering integration with services including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pownce and more.

Utilizing an extremely scalable database built for this purpose, AssetBar does what Google Reader cannot do. It eliminates duplicate feed items. It shows me what are the most frequently shared feeds and posts. It allows for customization, where Google Reader does not. And it, like Friendfeed, allows me to share items with my friends or all viewers outside of feeds. If I want to share a screenshot of the Apple Web site, I simply click "Share on AssetBar" in my Firefox toolbar, select an image, write a note, and it's off.

There are calls far and wide from the Web for change. Take a look just from the last week's comments in blogs I read:

Kent Newsome says, "Bloglines is still slow and unreliable. I tried hard (for the third time) to use Google Reader, but I can't. I hate Google Reader. In fact, I could write 1000 pages on how much I dislike the interface."

Robert Scoble writes, in "Workaround for Google Reader’s suckage", "I still wish the Google Reader team would do a better job of getting rid of duplicates."

Webomatica says, "Let me just say that I now have nearly 1,500 articles waiting for me on a daily basis. And even as I try to comb through them, more appear as I mark others read. It’s like a fire hose aimed at my head."

AssetBar, while still teething through the development process, offers the most potential to successfully bridge the gap between high-volume RSS feed reading, and social interaction. Come this January, you'll get the opportunity to give it a trial run and see if it just might deliver on the promise of the true Web 2.0, and make RSS not just a passive, solitary sport, but a social, multi-dimensional activity. I bet, that with focused development, and your collective feedback, it can get there. And it just might see me leaving Google Reader behind.

If you want to get your hands dirty and test out a early pre-release version of AssetBar, send me an e-mail, or post a comment here, with your e-mail address, and I'll hook you up. If you don't want to get in on the bleeding edge, stay tuned here, and visit the AssetBar Web log. We will both keep you posted.