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The Future of Feed Reading

by C. Ross Jam on July 19, 2009

GReader Logo.png Twitter’s Alex Payne has a thoughtful piece about where feed reading is today, and where aggregators could be going tomorrow. Along the way he reviews Fever, a new self-hosted, Web based aggregator.

As a person who’s been heavily invested in syndication and aggregation since the heyday of Usenet, I was hoping web based aggregators would take off. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Or at least in the current form of things like Google Reader, Bloglines, and NewsGator Online.

But aggregation is surreptitiously sneaking into everyday usage. Think about what typical Facebook users wind up with. An aggregated collection of lifestreams from their “friends.” Given that now locales, brands, and news sources can be friended on Facebook, these relatively unsophisticated users are engaging in feed reading. It just doesn’t look like the typical geek perception of feed reading, e.g. e-mail or Usenet style user interfaces. This trend is spreading. In a parallel development, FriendFeed allows you to aggregate your disconnected streams from across the Web.

But Payne is also pushing on the idea that whatever an aggregator looks like in the future, more smarts inside are needed to deal with information overload. I agree with him that this is greenfields territory, and eventually a highly successful business will be built in the space. An interesting approach might be to actually try and build a Facebook application specifically targeting newsish aggregation. Whatever the result, my guess is that will look radically different from the aggregators we have today.

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