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May 14, 2008

Where Are They Now? A Look at A Dozen Services That Debuted Here

Near the end of 2007, I first came across a service I had hoped would one day challenge Google Reader for the throne of coolest RSS feed reader, Assetbar. With social aspects including shared statistics and comments, it had the potential to become the future of where RSS feed readers were going. While that hasn't yet come to pass, it did mark the first time a service debuted on LouisGray.com.

In the ensuing 9 months or so, I've been lucky enough to either stumble upon, or get engaged with entrepreneurs early enough in the process, such that this site was where they first got started. Some of them have gone on to incredible visibility and success. One has already closed shop. Another looks dormant, and others, somewhere in between. I'll hold off on giving a rating, or "stars" assigned to their success, but believe me, it's tempting.



Assetbar
Debut: September 17, 2007
Post: Assetbar Set to Launch With Google Reader Inspiration

The Goal: To deliver a next-generation RSS feed reader with integrated commenting, shared link lists, and the ability to see if friends had seen or liked an article.

Status: After gaining the attention of ReadWriteWeb and Mashable, as well as a few follow-up stories here, Assetbar gained several hundred users, but rather than rocketing upward in popularity, issues with the confusing user interface, and prioritizing features over speed had even early adopters not sticking around. The site's gone into something of hibernation and maintenance mode, while the developers consider where to take their participatory social media platform next.



BlogRize
Debut: April 7, 2008
Post: BlogRize Builds A Community Around Your Blog and its Readers

The Goal: Build a community around a blog, and find new interesting items.

Status: Recently profiled by ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez, who is everywhere, BlogRize has hundreds of users joining communities like ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch and LouisGray.com to see what others like them are sharing and commenting on. Updates so far have been somewhat quiet, thanks to developer Jesse Spaulding's recent move to Seattle.



LinkRiver
Debut: February 13, 2008
Post: LinkRiver Enters Life Streaming Fray, Focused on Link Blogs

The Goal: To let friends follow shared items activity from multiple people in one place.

Status: LinkRiver has a big fan in Corvida of SheGeeks (LinkRiver Is My Personal Techmeme), and with interesting wrinkles including Attention data, which tracks what you share most often, and the ability to tag items for later viewing, developer Adam Stiles has created a lightweight (in a good way), informative site to find the most popular items of the day, or to see what friends are sharing, without the noise of some other social aggregators.



MergeLab
Debut: March 4, 2008
Post: Mergelab Emerges to Streamline Friends' Web Updates

The Goal: To follow friends' activity on the Web in a single location.

Status: Mergelab announced last Friday that the site would close down by the end of June. Without revenue, and with competition, the decision was made to exit the game early.



Rating Burner
Debut: January 30, 2008
Post: Rating Burner Debuts With RSS Feed Ranking, Growth Stats

The Goal: To show the most popular FeedBurner feeds, and daily changes.

Status: While not widely known, Rating Burner is quietly doing its job, adding more and more feeds to its library. The developer even added the option to display a Rating Burner badge on your blog so you can show your own ranking from the site.



ReadBurner
Debut: January 7, 2008
Post: ReadBurner, In Stealth Mode, Looking to Sort Shared Feed Items

The Goal: Find the most common shared items in Google Reader.

Status: ReadBurner took off like a phoenix, but after gaining rave reviews from across the Web, the site's lead developer shut down the site, only to see a trio of entrepreneurs, including Mashable's Adam Ostrow, buy its technology and get it up and running again. ReadBurner 2.0 debuted on April 15th and has continued to innovate, issuing an iPhone version of the site, and today, adding support for shared items from NetVibes.



RSSmeme
Debut: February 6, 2008
Post: RSSmeme Debuts as ReadBurner Clone

The Goal: Find the most common shared items in Google Reader

Status: RSSmeme took advantage of ReadBurner's downtime, and has more shared link blogs in play than anybody else on the Web. RSSmeme also debuted helpful integration for bloggers who want to show how often their items have been shared, and recently integrated notes from Google Reader.



Shyftr
Debut: March 4, 2008
Post: Shyftr Offers Social RSS Reading, Including Comments, Rankings

The Goal: Develop a RSS Feed Reader for friends to share favorite items and make comments.

Status: Shyftr recently added OPML importing, on the back of debuting shared link blogs, making it even more competitive with Google Reader, as Mark Hopkins of Mashable and the Download Squad noted. The service still has a way to go to get in the mainstream, and it will take some time for them to escape the dubious honor of getting Bitchmemed last month, but they continue to work hard.



SocialMedian
Debut: April 8, 2008
Post: Former Jobster CEO's Social|Median Incubating in Alpha

The Goal: A social news service, personalized based on your favorite topics.

Status: As mentioned Tuesday, SocialMedian is seeing strong growth, even in their alpha stage, growing to 2,599 alpha users, as of this post. The growth in the user base has resulted in a higher amount of interesting news, more clipped items, and the GUI has gotten much stronger in the last month.



TheStatBot
Debut: May 1, 2008
Post: The StatBot Launches to Analyze Blog and Web Trends, Statistics

The Goal: To analyze blog trends and statistics with insightful commentary.

Status: Yuvi Panda is now posting 2 to 3 new articles a week, starting with Scoble's Twitter feed, and now, dissecting Digg and the Techmeme Leaderboard. His latest post, from Tuesday, highlights those sites most likely to be in the "Discussion" section of TechMeme, not a featured item.



Toluu
Debut: March 24, 2008
Post: Toluu Offers Gateway to Friends' RSS Feeds, Recommends New Ones

The Goal: Share your OPML with friends and find new feeds.

Status: Growing like a weed, Caleb Elston's pet project has ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez enamored and just yesterday, Elston announced he continues to upgrade the site, deleting more than 60,000 duplicate feeds, the kind of attention to important detail that has people coming back again and again.



Yokway
Debut: March 2, 2008
Post: YokWay! Weeks Away from Launching "Digg for Friends"-like Service

The Goal: Share items, videos, and pictures with friends and have conversations.

Status: According to Yokway insiders, traffic to the site is catching up to FriendFeed and beating out SocialMedian, but aside from my coverage, and that from the Last Podcast, they haven't had nearly the exposure of FriendFeed, so that would be a surprise to me. The site has a few hundred visitors, from what I can tell, most activity is still from a select few dozen. Over the last 24 hours, there were 25 items shared for discussion. While the user interface is interesting, as is the application, it hasn't yet gained a lot of public awareness.



While this list is long, it's certainly a speck compared to that which blog powers like TechCrunch could debut. I've been lucky to play the role of early adopter, and there are a few more items out there cooking which should show up soon. But on the whole, I'm pretty pleased with the efforts made by just about every single one of the players above. ReadBurner and Toluu for starters, changed the game. Others are must-visit sites for me. But in this fast-moving industry, if you're not fast-moving, you might as well quit. I'm looking forward to keeping this going.