Who's Using What for RSS? 24 November, 2006 — Stuart Brown
A peek inside the RSS kimono
RSS is a funny old thing - once it takes hold in a person's daily routine it becomes as essential as checking ones email or reading the morning newspaper - but as far as mainstream usage goes, it's a long way from attaining widespread approval. The technology behind RSS is not the issue - it's just the underlying transport, like the ink and paper of traditional media. If RSS is to break into the mainstream, it's the means of delivery that will make it or break it.
Where traditional media has printed matter distributed in physical form, television has different channels, and websites have browsers, RSS is distributed through feedreaders. There are a variety of options available - some more popular than others. The following is a rundown of the current most popular feedreaders that are used to peruse Modern Life's own feed.
Bloglines - 20%
Bloglines is my own personal choice, and indeed it's the same choice as 1 in 5 subscribers. Relatively quick and easy to use, Bloglines is web based, so there's no installation, nor any requirement for a particular platform.
It's not the prettiest website in the world, but it's nicer than most other applications - and it's suitable fast, save for when the infamous Bloglines plumber is at work. I do like Bloglines a lot (and I'd have to, the amount I use it) but part of me feels that it isn't quite the killer app for RSS quite yet.
Firefox Live Bookmarks - 17%
Until recently, Firefox Live Bookmarks was the leading feedreader, but thankfully the release of Firefox 2 means that a far larger range of readers are supported. Live Bookmarks are fine for the casual RSS subscriber, but are woefully unprepared for anything more than a few feeds.
Netvibes - 8%
Netvibes is the leading provider in those seemingly-fashionable AJAX home pages, with the option to allocate screen real estate to RSS feeds. Personally, I'm dubious as to the usefulness of services such as Netvibes, with a somewhat overcomplicated and cluttered interface, but over 60 people can't be wrong!
Newsgator - 6%
Next up, it's the closest alternative to Bloglines, Newsgator. It's almost identical in terms of features, but I find it a little less aesthetically pleasing and a little more 'clunky' in use. I can't help but feel that their site is essentially one big advert for their 'premium' services.
Google Desktop - 5%
It was actually my first look at Google Desktop when I installed it to grab a screenshot, and I was impressed to see how the integration worked with my applications and files. It's almost scary in that way - not to mention rather odd having a personal indexing and search web application hosted on your computer.
I feel it's probably more suited to the 'Google Gadgets' than RSS, but you can subscribe via the 'web clips' gadget to get a summary of the latest news from across the web.
NetNewsWire - 5%
Although they've been acquired by NewsGator, NetNewsWire is a pretty nice OS X application - probably the prettiest of all the desktop readers, and with a nice simple interface. Despite the slight Mac bias in the preset subscriptions, this is probably the feedreader I would use if I were on OS X.
Safari RSS - 4%
Not bad by any mark for a browser built-in reader, Safari's RSS reader is both intuitive and pretty, although it isn't suited for reading larger amounts of feeds.
Opera RSS - 3%
RSS support is perhaps one area where Opera really outshines Firefox as a browser - the RSS reader is easy to use, with some great features (I particularly like the 'quick reply' box at the bottom). Unlike most other browser readers, Opera operates like an email/news client, with individual posts appearing as separate messages.
Thunderbird - 3%
Similar to Opera, Thunderbird takes a news & email approach to RSS - the actual-site preview (as opposed to the summary contained within the RSS) is a great touch.
FeedDemon - 2%
FeedDemon, another aggregator under the NewsGator banner, is the leading desktop aggregator for windows (if you exclude other multi-function desktop apps). Quite why is somewhat of a mystery, as I didn't exactly find it easy to use. Coupled with a pretty ugly interface - and the fact that it's not free - I would say that there are far better alternatives.
Of course, there's a whole swathe of additional feedreaders out there - Google Reader would probably be top 10, if Google divulged their subscriber statistics. Honorable mentions also go to Flock, Newsfire, Sage, Vienna and Liferea.
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