In-Browser Feed Readers

A very special breed of RSS readers out there are the rare few that fit snugly inside (yes inside) your web browser. There are clear advantages to having your feed reader inside your browser. The main benefit is that if a link is worthy of a click, you’re already there. You’re not dealing with the leap to another application or the usually half-featured browser controls inside the feed reader itself.
Two products seem to stand out in this category: Pluck and Onfolio 2.0 (currently in beta). Both seem to do the trick nicely. Onfolio has a wealth of other features that center around snipping and collecting information from around the web. Pluck is more focused on feed reading/management. Both are relatively polished and fairly useful. Both are free (for now). Onfolio scores bonus points for integrating with both IE and Firefox.
My big gripe with both readers is that if you’ve got a lot of feeds, it still isn’t especially easy to sift through all those entries that quickly. They’ve both chosen to adopt the Outlook paradigm of folders on the left, then headlines blurbs, then the full view. This works for email. I don’t really like it for RSS.
The task of making it easy and simple to scan through many channels without feeling overloaded is really a challenge for the designers and builders of feed readers today. Very few have gotten it right in my opinion.
For me, FeedDemon still runs the show. I’ve tweaked one of the newspaper stylesheets so I can get a thorough scan of a lot of information very quickly. It’s also visibly faster than the other products (not sure why).

6 Comments In-Browser Feed Readers

  1. Joe Cheng

    :: They’ve both chosen to adopt the Outlook paradigm of folders on the left, then headlines blurbs, then the full view.
    Actually, Onfolio’s predominant mode is Newspaper mode (although you can also use it in the Outlook style if you like). See screenshot here:
    http://www.onfolio.com/beta/screenShotPreviewer.cfm
    The newspaper is interactive–as you arrow up and down, it marks articles read, and you can press the Delete key to delete the selected article. Overall we think the interactive newspaper is the most efficient feed reading paradigm so far.
    FeedDemon is definitely faster than Onfolio. The reasons are varied and highly technical, and also involve some speculation as to what FeedDemon is doing under the covers (ping me if you’re really interested, maybe I’ll blog about it). We are always working to improve the performance of Onfolio, but it’s not likely that we’ll rival FeedDemon’s speed in the version 2.0 timeframe.

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  2. Richard Ziade

    The big thing for me is scanning quickly through a lot of entries. I like the newspaper interface a lot, but I actually see less entries rather than more in that view.
    Someone churned out a neat little expand/collapse XSL for FeedDemon that really does the trick (I’d be glad to forward it if you like). It let’s me easily see 20-30 headlines across 3 or 4 feeds at a time and expand the entries I like to read the blurbs. Good stuff. Even so, it could still be better. I’m not sure if stacking all the feeds in a particular folder makes a whole lot of sense. Why not in 2 or 3 columns for example? It’s all about easy scanning (for me at least).
    I’d be curious to hear how FD is doing its magic. If you blog about it, let me know.

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  3. Joe Cheng

    :: Why not in 2 or 3 columns for example? It’s all about easy scanning (for me at least).
    Ah, I see. I think we have very different personal approaches to feedreading. All of us at Onfolio happen to work in a mode where I want to scan a linear list of articles, in a way that I focus on each article one at a time (even if it’s only for as long as it takes me to read the second word in the title before I decide I’m not interested). So instead of scanning across a newspaper, it’s tapping down, down, down, down. This way, anything I’ve considered has been marked read, and anything I’ve not gotten to yet stays unread.
    If something looks interesting enough to actually take a second look at, either I can read it right then, or I can add it to my reading list or flag it (or if it looks like something worth keeping forever, capture it to an Onfolio collection).
    This model lets you very effectively sit down and plow through 300 of the 2000 unread articles that are waiting for you across your hundreds of feeds. You know that you never have to deal with those 300 again (except the ones you want to), and the 1700 others will be waiting for you next time.
    For someone like you, who wants to just scan or presumably let your eye jump around between different entries, it’s not going to be nearly as effective for all the reasons you point out. To be honest, that style of reading had never occurred to me (although I didn’t work directly on the feedreader, it’s possible that the developer who designed it considered all this. I’d ask him, but he just left on vacation).
    I try not to comment too much on competitors’ products, but I’ll try to blog sometime soon about techniques you can use to make a product fast and why many of those techniques are unfortunately not available to us.

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  4. Sean Darling

    I completely agree that it is better to have your feed reader in your browser. It feels much more like being only one click away from the originator’s site.
    I just use the live bookmarks in Firefox to handle my RSS feeds now. For me its just as good (if not better) than the plugins that are out there…

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