Playing with Bloglines

I have been testing out Bloglines after reading Kimbro Staken's attempt to replace NetNewsWire on Mac OS X. Currently I am using NetNewsWire Lite on Mac OS X and FeedDemon on Windows to do my news aggregation. However, NNW Lite doesn't have many features in the non-free full version. FeedDemon, while better designed than NNW, has just hit the gold 1.0 release, and I am not sure whether I am prepared to pay USD$29.95 for it. Moreover, I am on multiple different boxes during the day, and I am really seeking a centrally managed solution - including my subscription list and the entries that I have read/haven't read.

That is where Bloglines comes into the picture.

Bloglines is an excellent web-based RSS aggregator that does almost everything I need. Javascript is heavily utilised so it does give you that "desktop app" feeling. You can subscribe to feeds, organise them into nested folders, and there are light weight poll applications written for both Mac OS X and Windows that notify you when a new entry has been processed by Bloglines. Noted that this small app is not required to use Bloglines' service, but all you need is a decent web browser to enjoy this centralised RSS aggregator. Catching up news in a public computer in the Internet Cafe? Not a problem!

I have loaded it with all the sites I previously subscribed via FeedDemon, and it has no problem handling all the XML. It has no problem with UTF-8 content either, as I have a few Chinese sites on my subscription list. The interface is easy to use, and it is relatively fast behind ADSL lines. I would think that it is a popular service, and with no banner ads nor subscription fee to pay the bandwidth, it might be quite slow. Apparently it is not the case.

Bloglines is still in Beta. Some actions do not work properly yet, for example changing the folder name (tested on Mozilla Firebird). Moreover, it does not provide a simpler read-only interface for ancient or text-mode browsers. I am on w3m while working on the text console, and the Javascript just won't work on it.

Overall, thumbs up for this great service.

Updated at 5:50pm: I have also noticed that in my webserver logs, there are entries look like this:

  xx.xx.xx.xx - - [05/Jan/2004:17:01:32 +1100] "GET /index.rdf HTTP/1.1"
      200 2110 "-" "Bloglines/2.0 (; 3 subscribers)"

It tells you how many subscribers are there reading your blogsite via Bloglines. I wonder whether it will let me know about that list of subscribers. But then I guess it will be against their privacy policy.