The search for the elusive desktop RSS reader

 If you are searching for the perfect Desktop application for your PC, so you can read all of your blogs in one place, search no more. Literally. Stop looking. It does not exist!

I started the search for the perfect PC desktop news reader so I could scan all of the blogs that I like to read, in one place. Should have been easy. There were, after all, about a 100 blog reader applications to choose from. After several wasted hours - nothing!

  The Desktop RSS readers are vanishing - and with good reason. They leave a lot to be desired.

Here’s a round up of the desktop blog readers that we tried. Some of these (Snarfer, RSS Bandit) had received high ratings from sites such as CNET’s They work in similar fashion. You download the program and click on the web feeds that you want to read from a pre-selected menu of blog choices in several categories such as business and tech. You have the option of adding feeds for other sites that you like to visit.

Feed reader Price Issues
Snarfer Free Failed to install.Abandoned after two attempts.
RSS Bandit Free Installed ok, but never connected or displayed any posts
Microsoft MAX Free This reader is no longer available!
Google webclips Free Not a full featured reader but shows clips from sites that you visit. The reader “forgets” feeds that you have not read for a little while.


The biggest surprise was Microsoft Max desktop blog reader. They released in beta about a year ago. If you visit the Max page on the Microsoft site it says simply “Thank you for participating in the beta of Microsoft Codename Max. At this time, the Max services are no longer running“. It seems that Microsoft has abandoned the standalone Max for now, and moved on to bulking up the Microsoft Windows Live platform which has several new products including the Windows Live Writer for generating web content (which is a fabulous product, by the way), but no RSS readers as yet.

Google Webclips is not a blog reader per se - but pretty clever otherwise. It incorporates into Google desktop, and will show a feed of clips from websites that you visited recently, in the sidebar (if you have it turned on). The only problem is that it can pick up feeds from sites that you might have inadvertently landed upon but do not want to see clips from. You then have remove the feed. Also feeds that you explicitly add to the clips can vanish if you do not visit the web page for a while.

There are a few paid desktop news readers like NewsGator (19.95/yr), Attensa (20/yr) and Feeddemon ($29.95/yr) which we might check out in the future.

For now, if you are looking for a simple, “push” way of reading blogs, email is the best option (for example, if you enter your email in the box in the side bar of this blog you will get a daily digest of posts). As far as web based readers, there are several options that work well including Bloglines and the Google Reader.

Richard MacManus of Read/Write Web makes the case that Desktop RSS readers are nearly dead. They ran a poll to ask visitors which types of readers they were using in January 2007 and again in July 2007. According to their results, Web based readers grew the most (+7%) at the expense of Desktop readers which lost 6% market share.

Table courtesy of Read/Write Web:

Jul-07 Jan-07 Change
Web-based (e.g. Bloglines, Google Reader, Rojo) 59% 52% 7%
Desktop (e.g. FeedDemon, NetNewsWire) 13% 19% -6%
Start Page (Pageflakes, Netvibes, etc) 16% 16% no change
Browser (e.g. Firefox Live Bookmarks) 6% 8% -2%
Email or email-based client (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird) 3% 3% no change
Social Network (Facebook, MySpace, etc) 0% - n/a
Other (please comment) 2% 2% no change

There is still a big need for a simple, easy to set-up desktop reader, and I am sure someone will come up with the perfect application soon. A free reader with a targeted “push” ad serving model - could be a winner!

Lunch 20 event in Burbank

lunch2.0 event burbankLunch2.0 organized a luncheon event at the offices of YellowBot in Burbank, this afternoon. This was a well attended meet and greet for local entrepreneurs, with about 70 to 80 showing up to network over a great lunch.

The last Lunch2.0 Los Angeles area meeting was hosted at the office of ThisNext in Santa Monica.

ImageThe YellowBot site is Yellow pages meets Facebook. It is a place for discovering local hot-spots and sharing opinions with others. YellowBot is a resource for bringing people together locally, in a similar way that Lunch 2.0 does, at its frequent lunch meetings hosted at the offices of companies in many cities throughout the US.

YellowBot is in beta, and self funded.

lunch2.0event in burbank

Photo courtesy Lunch2.0

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Google and Jaiku - the puzzle is getter clearer

jaiku logoGoogle has acquired the mobile microblogging service Jaiku for an undisclosed sum, fueling some speculation on Google’s future plans for forays into the social networking space, particularly via mobile devices.

For right now, existing users of Jaiku will carry on as usual. New users will be able to join in future, through an invitation, according to the official Google Blog.

There is further speculation that the Jaiku mobile service will be bundled in with the yet to materialize but highly hyped Google G-phone.

jaiku mobileTwitter, Jaiku, Pownce and other mobile chat applications give people one more way to communicate. The advantage to these applications is that the communications can be (and have to be) brief, so people do not feel they have to write long volumes, or stand on literary ceremony, such when writing emails - or have the need to make idle chit chat when calling acquaintances on the phone. It conveys “thinking of you” while providing a “what’s news” highlight in the briefest way possible.

Twitter is a very simple application geared at providing “What I am doing” updates - rather like the status updates on Facebook. People who travel frequently tend to embed Twitter into their web pages or blogs, to send quick bulletins on what they are up to. However, it is hard to say anything really meaningful within 140 characters.

jaikuJaiku, the more complicated cousin of Twitter, allows users to create an “activity stream” where they post Jaikus (a variation of the word haiku which means a short poem), as well as add pictures and contacts lists. The brain child of Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen from Finland, Jaiku was founded in February, 2006 and launched in July of that year. This is indeed a quick turn around for selling a start up that is only a year and a half old!

Google’s acquisition of Jaiku also came hot on the heels the acquisition of Zingku, the mobile social networking networking service, along with Google’s much publicized bid on wireless spectrum in the US and UK.

The interesting matter to speculate on is what does Google plan to do with Jaiku in the future? If Google were to set up their own social network, they would definitely want a quick chat or status update application, like the other social networks. One that is mobile ready and can exchange multimedia via mobile and other platforms, would definitely be a big asset.

And if the Gphone materializes, Google would definitely have the social-mobile market well covered. With Jaiku, yet another piece seems to have dropped into the puzzle!

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OAuth - Breaking down barriers

OauthThe “final draft” version 1.0 of OAuth was released yesterday. OAuth is an Open Authentication spec that is attempting to become the standard for cross-platform information exchange.
- The Problem -

Let’s say you have accounts on a wide number of websites: Facebook, Netflix, Flickr, Amazon, Twitter, etc. Combined you have a network of sites that perform unique functions as well as store your personal information. Currently, however, information about you that is available to one site is inaccessible to the next. For instance, Netflix has no idea what you’ve purchased on Amazon and vice-versa, information that would allow both sites to offer better, more personalized recommendations that would help you find more movies you want to watch while increasing sales at the same time.

Cross-functionality isn’t an option either; there’s currently not a way to automate a Twitter post letting your friends know that you have just posted a new photo album titled “____” on your Flickr account. In order for this to work, each account would need your personal login and password credentials of the other, giving both sites full access to sensitive information as well as the ability to modify it. While the sharing of unique personal data and the utilization of cross-functionality would be useful, the difficulty of safely transferring info from one site to another has not been surmounted, leaving each account existing in a vacuum.

- The Solution -

OAuth is a protocol that enables the secure transfer of login credentials across platforms, making the examples above easy tasks. With OAuth, people can enjoy cross-functionality among different accounts without ever exposing their passwords. In addition, people are able to select the level of access granted to other sites for each of their accounts. For example, a person could give access to their Facebook interests, but not to their wall posts or friends lists.

Programmers developed OAuth by combining what they saw as the best features from other protocols (such as Google AuthSub, AOL OpenAuth, Yahoo BBAuth etc.), and they hope to solidify it as the open authorization standard. One feature that really sets OAuth apart from the rest is that its built with support for not only websites, but desktop apps and mobile devices as well.

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