In the last two weeks, Alexander Marktl has made his experiment into a useable, enjoyable site, filtering it into no fewer than five different language families, adding RSS feeds, revealing the individual sharers, and adding profile pages for each individual user.
Meanwhile, he has added a new page dedicated to "Upcoming" items that haven't yet reached the popular stage, just as Digg does.
The sum of all these changes? Even more reasons to keep checking in on the site - and two major shifts have occurred in my thinking over the last few weeks because of ReadBurner.
1) Google's Shared Link Blogs are a Big Barrier for Competitors
When AssetBar launches for good, there are some tremendously interesting services the site will offer that nobody else does today. But assuming I leave Google Reader for AssetBar (or any other service), my shared link blog from Google Reader will go dark. That, in turn, will stop my updates from being included on ReadBurner, Shared Reader and other services.
Even if AssetBar shows the most popular shared items, it will likely be doing so in a way where its data will be parallel from Google Reader, and therefore, won't be counted in ReadBurner, Feedheads, Shared Reader and others. If my shared link blog is important enough to me, I wouldn't make the move.
Even though Google hasn't done much with these shared link blogs, they already post a barrier for new companies.
2) I Finally Know Who Reads My Blog and Shares, but Doesn't Comment
ReadBurner, by revealing who is sharing blog posts from louisgray.com, shows me the link blogs from people I've never known. Even as my RSS feed reader subscribers ticked upward, my subscribers are largely an enigma. A small fraction of them make comments here, or send me e-mail. Now, I can go to ReadBurner, click on the names of people who have shared my items, and find them for the first time.
This alone is a very powerful thing.
And Alexander's not done. ReadBurner just launched a "Stats" page highlighting the most active link bloggers, the most common sources for shared items, and most common authors - the very beginning of exactly what Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel and I have been asking for Google to do for the better part of a year. (See below screenshot)
Whether this addition was spurred forward by a similar feature debuted by "Shared Reader" I saw in the middle of last week or not isn't certain, but it's impossible to know. After all, "Shared Reader", after a very public debut, both here, and on Mashable, looks to be down at the moment. Good thing ReadBurner is still up and innovating.