1 week comparison: SearchFox, Feedster, Pluck, Bloglines, Rojo, and NewsGator

[ page last updated: Oct. 21, 2005. ]

i can’t believe an entire week has gone by..
i wanted to take a couple of hours each day to test out these 6 feed readers, but i gotta say that i still can’t decide which one i feel most comfortable with. looks like i may have seriously underestimated how easy it was going to be to make this choice. in the meantime, let me just say, that i have become a full blown feed junkie, thank you very much (not sure who to point the finger at on this one – but it’s got to be somebody’s fault right?).

anyway, here’s how i’ve been doing it and what i’ve found:

RSS readers being compared:

  1. SearchFox
  2. My Feedster
  3. Pluck Online
  4. Bloglines
  5. Rojo
  6. NewsGator Online
Areas of Comparison:

  • Account Settings (AccSet)
  • Search Features (Search)
  • Clippings / Favorites (ClipFav)
  • Results Pages (Results)
  • Managing Feeds (Manage)
  • Directory Browsing (DirBro)
  • Special / Other (SpecO)

i started by logging in to each service, in 6 different Firefox tabs, all in a single browser. next i began to mess around, but trying to give each feed reader an equal amount of my attention. first i used the directories to browse for new feeds, and the search box to find sites with content i was interested in. then i took a look at the account features provided by each service. could i change my preferences.. did i even have any preferences? there were many things to explore. i did notice that Pluck and NewsGator kept logging me out if i hadn’t used them for more than 10 minutes or so. while this might be a very secure and efficient thing to do, the result was that i ended up spending a lot more time using all the other feed readers – who wants to have to keep logging in over and over again every ten minutes?

once i got bored of that, i tried to import an OPML file, which is essentially just a list of many different feeds all conveniently packed into one file. very useful for quickly moving around all your feeds (ie: import / export). suddenly i had a ton of feeds in my reader (80-120), and things got all cluttered. things were a mess, so i figured this might be a good time to test out how well each feed reader was able to manage large numbers of feeds. i deleted and renamed feeds and folders, reordering them in a way that was most useful to me. options like: display only unread articles, mark as read, and sort by date, are all particularly useful in these respects.

here are some more brief observations i have made over the course of the week:

Pros: expand/collapse summaries within feeds (Results), easy to navigate/browse feeds (DirBro), sort by day/week/month/favs/all (Results), ability to mark article as unread (Manage), machine learning technology (SpecO)
Cons: slow to add feeds (Manage) [this seems much faster now], no OPML import [see comments] or export (Manage) [this feature was added: 10/21/05], no account preferences (AccSet) – but they’re still just in beta.

My Feedster -
Pros: add feeds really fast (Manage), import/export opml files and urls(Manage)
Cons: feed results page is difficult to view (Results), no way to sort page results (Results)

Pluck Online -
Pros: fast loading pages (Results), import opml files but not urls (Manage), open stories in new window (Results), add bookmarks as well as feeds (SpecO), view Shadow pages (SpecO)
Cons: can’t tell which articles are new or have been read (Manage), no export opml (Manage), weird reloading browser window if you try to do anything (DirBro)

Bloglines -
Pros: sort results differently for each folder/category (Results), expand/collapse feeds (Results), import opml files but not urls (Manage), export opml (Manage), keep articles as new even after they’ve been read (Manage)
Cons: no folder is created when importing new feeds (Manage), saving favorites is a 2-step process (ClipFav)

Rojo -
Pros: import/export opml (Manage), expand/collapse summaries within feeds (Results), many ways to sort (Results), easy one-click save/flag entries (ClipFav)
Cons: no easy way to rename categories (Manage)

NewsGator Online -
Pros: easily mark stories as read (Manage), choice to view only unread items (Results), the only service where you log in on a secure (https) server (SpecO), import/export opml files and urls (Manage)
Cons: can’t keep articles as new once they’ve been read (Manage)

Some of these feed readers have special features that would require more extensive testing in order for me to really say which i liked better. extras like tagging feeds (Rojo), favorites (Pluck), communities (Rojo,Pluck,Bloglines), machine learning (SearchFox), could easily sway my decision. the only service i am sure i would never stick with is Feedster. aside from being fast, i often had problems viewing feeds, organizing anything, uploading my logo/image, and sometimes it just wouldn’t work at all. if i had to pick my favorite 3 out of these 6 readers, i would have to say Rojo, Bloglines, and NewsGator. SearchFox could be up there as well, because of it’s ease of use. but since it is still in beta, and because i am forever intrigued with the idea of machine learning technology, i will keep SearchFox around for another 2 weeks. in that time, hopefully i can narrow these 3 services (actually 4) down to my #1 favorite. wish me luck.

[ This is a follow up to a previous article entitled: "So you think you can RSS? How", which is itself a follow up to an even earlier post entitled: "So you think you can RSS? Why", and looks at the evolution of the internet, why RSS and other feed formats are so popular today, how to use them, and why you might like one service over another. ]

Comments 33

  1. Esteban Kozak wrote:

    This is a very nice side-by-side comparison write up. As for you assessment of SearchFox, I have to clarify that we support OPML imports.

    As you subscribe to more feeds, you will notice that the most important issue with current RSS aggregators is information overload. SearchFox RSS is the only RSS reader in the market that has been design from day one to solve that problem. It learns from you and bubbles the posts that you care about to the top. I expect this feature alone will make you decision making process easier. In the meantime, I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about SearchFox RSS.

    Posted 09 Sep 2005 at 8:00 pm
  2. Aref wrote:

    You can try with this RSS tools matrix :

    Posted 10 Sep 2005 at 4:09 am
  3. elran wrote:

    Aref: nice list of rss readers. i’m sure that anyone who is looking to install a full desktop software on their Windows machine would find your comparison useful (65 RSS softwares covered). my 1 week comparison only looked at web-based services because i didn’t want to start installing too many softwares and wanted something i could use on both my linux and windows machines, from anywhere with an internet connection (not just my computers).

    Esteban: i can’t believe i didn’t notice that SearchFox had OPML imports. Even after you mentioned it, i went back to see if it was true (are you sure you didn’t just put the feature there today? just kidding), and i didn’t see it right away. But sure enough, with a little more attention i finally spotted it on the upper-right corner of the “Manage My World” page. I probably just missed it because i was expecting the feature to be on the left-hand sidebar, in the “Add a Source” drop-down menu, or somewhere around there. i crossed out the item in the “observations” section (above), and hope to continue to update this post as more features become available or if i find that there are any other options that i might have missed. strictly speaking though, as a consumer, if i didn’t see the “import OPML” in the 1 week that i was “in the mood” to compare 6 rss readers, it’s kind of like you don’t support it. but then again, i’m just one guy.

    Posted 11 Sep 2005 at 2:39 pm
  4. Aref wrote:

    Can I get an invitation to test out searchfox ? thanks

    Posted 12 Sep 2005 at 2:45 pm
  5. elran wrote:

    Follow up:

    i just noticed that the import OPML has moved over to the left title bar. i like..
    this way there’s no chance anyone can miss it.
    importing URLs seems faster too (i mention it above), good job SearchFox!

    Posted 14 Sep 2005 at 2:22 pm
  6. Russell wrote:

    Searchfox will shut down in 2 weeks. Ouch.

    Posted 11 Jan 2006 at 9:43 pm
  7. elran wrote:

    a real bummer 2.0 -

    still waiting to hear the official announcement though..

    Posted 11 Jan 2006 at 11:49 pm
  8. elran wrote:

    update: searchfox is back!

    i had a feeling that yahoo wouldn’t be able to resist searchfox’s machine learining technology.

    i really haven’t seen anything better out there.

    Posted 22 Jan 2006 at 11:19 pm
  9. Jorge wrote:

    Do you know of any service that, as Google Reader and Kinja groups all the feeds and sorts by date. I like to read them that way and every review critizes them, but it appears to me that all the 3 pane viewers makes you read them in a by site basis, if you get what I mean. Any suggestion?

    Posted 08 Feb 2006 at 2:04 pm
  10. elran wrote:

    hi Jorge,

    if i’m not mistaken, Rojo will let you sort feeds by: date or relevence.
    the link on the left sidebar lets you change between them.
    Newsgator will also let you sort by: “newest on top” or “oldest on top”. the drop-down arrow is at the top-center of the page just about the first feed text.
    i also sometimes like to change between views when i read my feeds and suggest you take a look at your “preferences” page for your feedreader just cause i’ve sometimes seen this feature tucked away there as well.

    hope that helps a bit.

    Posted 08 Feb 2006 at 4:16 pm
  11. idpt0000 wrote:

    Hey, this article was around 1 year before. Do you have any update for the comparison? Currently, I am using bloglines. But I am looking for some other online tools that navigator by either sources or tags (or even both) …… Any suggestion?

    Posted 22 Sep 2006 at 7:10 am
  12. elran wrote:

    yah, a lot has changed since i posted this review.

    it’s funny, i was just considering doing a long awaited follow up to this article.

    if you want a quick preview of what i’d likely be covering this time around, i’d have to say:

    1. bloglines (still the fastest and most reliable in my opinion – but still ugly as sin so..)
    2. rojo (it was down recently, i think, some time after it was sold to 37signals – but i like the tags feature)
    3. feeds2.0 (ajax interface, tagging, recommendation/personalization)
    4. google reader (fast, clean, and familiar – with tagging as labels and stars for favorites)
    5. netvibes (actually an ajax homepage but good for getting a gallery view of your favorite feeds)

    Posted 22 Sep 2006 at 12:54 pm
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Trackbacks & Pingbacks 5

  1. From TechCrunch on 12 Sep 2005 at 1:24 pm

    SearchFox – Personalized RSS Reader

    Company: Search Fox
    Founded: December 2004
    Launched: in Private Beta
    Location: San Francisco

    SearchFox is in private beta testing of a potentially disruptive RSS reader. It’s the first product I’ve seen that does a good job of prioritizi…

  2. From Online Marketing Blog on 24 Sep 2005 at 3:55 pm

    SearchFox – RSS Reader That Learns

    here’s a comparison of SearchFox, Feedster, Pluck, Bloglines, Rojo, and NewsGator..

  3. From Kalyxo denkt on 31 Oct 2005 at 3:45 pm

    RSS Feeds über Bloglines suchen

    Ein kleiner Tipp für alle, die gerne News von einer Seite hätten, die eigentlich gar keinen RSS-Feed anbietet. Einfach in einem Account von http://www.bloglines.com danach suchen. Meist wird man bei newisfree.com oder Ähnlichem fündig.

  4. From TechCrunch » SearchFox - Personalized RSS Reader on 22 Jan 2006 at 1:08 am

    [...] Robert Scoble wrote about Search Fox last week, and Matt Marshall mentioned them briefly as well. You should also check out TechBlog, which does an excellent comparison of a number of web based readers, including Search Fox. [...]

  5. From Darjeeling » Blog Archive » Recién llego y ya estoy cansando on 23 Feb 2006 at 10:16 am

    [...] La web 2.0, a la que recién me estoy sumando, ya me está cansando. Buscando un servicio de lectura de feeds descubrí que hay 18 mil que hacen lo mismo y varias personas que se ocuparon de hacer reviews (1) (2). Todos critican el Google Reader que yo uso y sin embargo no encontré alguno que lo haga mejor: Ninguno, excepto Kinja te junta todos los feeds, sin separarlos por su origen. [...]

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