Aggregating the Aggregators: RSS Reader Round-Up

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Sage is a free RSS aggregator extension for Mozilla's Firefox Internet browser. It builds off of the work done on flyson's RSS Reader Panel extension, although it was preceded by NewsMonster, another free aggregator, which integrates with the Mozilla 1.0 browser. While not the most feature-rich aggregator around, Sage succeeds in providing a lightweight feed reader that tightly integrates with Firefox's built-in Live Bookmarks functionality. Sage, like its contemporaries, features one-click RSS subscriptions, although it does so through the built-in capabilities of Firefox. It also has a button that takes users directly to a Technorati search of the page you're viewing, although it inserts the URL of the article rather than keywords, somewhat limiting its effectiveness. Sage does have a Discover Feeds button that works well for finding available feeds on the page you're currently viewing, but in repeated testing of the Feed Discovery search field, it often didn't find any feeds on sites where they were, in fact, available.

Sage has a significant advantage over most of its competitors: a vibrant community of developers that supports it—some of whom lent a hand in the creation of Firefox itself. On Sage's Web site, users are able to log requests through a Wiki interface for new features they'd like to see Sage incorporate. There's already a long list of requests, and Sage should only continue to grow and improve over time as its enthusiastic development team continues working. Even though Sage is offered for free, it will face some competition within the Mozilla community as Firefox's open source nature allows for any developer with some free time and a vision to build and make available an RSS aggregator extension for it.

Bloglines made a name for itself hosting free Weblogs, although the company has expanded its focus more recently to include online RSS aggregation. Despite the added features, Bloglines is still a free service, and setting up an account and subscribing to your feeds of choice is as simple as filling out a form. The site has a clean interface and a number of different notifiers that can be placed on your desktop to alert you when you've received new content in your Bloglines account.

There are several ways to find and subscribe to feeds on Bloglines. First, you can drag and drop a button from their site into the Bookmarks bar of your Internet browser, whether it be Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari. Click that button and your Bloglines account will subscribe automatically to any feed you find on the Internet. Bloglines includes an extensive directory of feeds listed alphabetically and sortable by Most Popular and Newest. A search field allows you to find feeds by typing in a keyword, which is helpful because the expansiveness of the listings renders alphabetical searching overwhelming. You can also see how many people are subscribed to a particular feed or what other feeds specific users are subscribed to, provided they've made their profiles publicly available. With the Related Feeds button, Bloglines recommends feeds to you based on your subscriptions. As evidence of Bloglines' history with blogs—as well as the site's ambition to become a central hub of information for many users—the Add Feed menu includes fields for subscribing to Blog Spot blogs, Live Journals, Xangas, Google Groups, and Yahoo! Groups.

Bloglines suffers somewhat from a problem many online ventures face: network congestion. While most of the time the site runs quickly, it occasionally gets bogged down, slowing your ability to manage your account dramatically. But considering all the advantages of having your aggregator online—like being able to access it from anywhere—this is really a minor nuisance.

Another benefit of being an online aggregator is the ability to generate temporary or receive-only email addresses. These email addresses are especially effective when you are asked to enter an email address when registering at sites online or when you're on mailing lists you don't want or need to reply to. Incoming emails are treated as RSS feeds and viewed in the same fashion.


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