May 05, 2008

Shyftr Adds OPML Support To Intriguing RSS Feed Reader

With RSS becoming ubiquitous now, it is not uncommon for Web power users to have hundreds or even thousands of individual RSS feed subcriptions, covering anything from sports to technology, news and blogs of friends and family. But adding these feeds one by one to a new feed reader is simply out of the question. It takes too long. That's why the majority of RSS feed readers, both online and off, have moved to support OPML, enabling the portability of both your feeds and your folders.

Today, Shyftr, an online feed reader that lets you share comments within the Shyftr community and learn what are the most popular feeds and items, added this crucial capability, making them a stronger competitor to other market leaders, such as Google Reader, BlogLines and NewsGator. (See the official post: OPML Support Is Here!)

Shyftr first caught my attention earlier this year, when I highlighted their integrated comments system and blog rankings. (See: Shyftr Offers Social RSS Reading, Including Comments, Rankings) But at the time, I had no choice but to highlight their lack of OPML, a real sticking point for me. Later in March, Shyftr added pocket blogs, much like Google Reader's shared links blog.

You might also remember that last month, the Shyftr team was engaged in some controversy over their practice of displaying full feed items and comments away from the original blog, a position from which they later relented, following criticism. While I didn't have any issues at all with what they were doing, others did, and Shyftr was smart to quickly adjust.

Like with other RSS feed readers, adding OPML to Shyftr is very simple. Just export your OPML from your existing reader, and from your Shyftr Profile, click the "+" button under Feeds to add new items. Once you upload your OPML file, Shyftr will then keep you updated as to its progress, first by laying out the specified folder hierarchy, and second, showing how many feeds have been imported.

For somebody like me, this process can take several minutes. It's not the fastest OPML import I've ever seen, but it definitely works. Just make sure you don't close the browser window while it's operating.

What I liked best about Shyftr's implementation is that the system automatically recognized if I had already manually entered a feed. If I had, it would correctly move that feed, which was duplicated, into the folder specified by my OPML file. I was at first worried I would have to manually move each duplicated feed, but it took care of the hard work for me. (That also explains why in the above graphic, the total number of feeds imported is less than the number processed)

With the addition of OPML, Shyftr has many of the major checkboxes for next generation RSS feed readers nailed. They have online feed reading. They have user profiles. They have comments. They have popularity rankings. They have a personalized link blog. Just about the only thing that Google Reader and others have that they don't yet is keyboard navigation through feeds. If they can manage to get that nailed, Shyftr could be even more compelling than it already is today. It has been fun to watch the team go from pet project to serious RSS feed reader alternative in the space of a few months, and I expect that adding OPML is just the beginning.