Today Alltop, an aggregator of RSS feeds, launched. It’s a very similar product to one of my daily refreshes, OriginalSignal. Only Alltop covers a much broader range of topics, 40 in total. Alltop’s selection of feeds is savvy and wide-ranging - and I’m not just saying that because ReadWriteWeb is the first feed listed in ‘Social Media’ (although I am very pleased about that!). The service is being positioned as ‘RSS for the masses’, because it makes it very easy for non-tech people to find new sources to read.
Founder Guy Kawasaki described Alltop as “an ‘online magazine rack’ that displays the news from the top publications and blogs.”
There have been varying reactions to Alltop. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch wrote that Alltop is “just a big pile of nothing.” I think he was referring to the fact that it is relatively easy to create an app like Alltop - and he referenced the Web 2.0 Workgroup homepage (developed by Fred Oliveira a few years ago) as an example. Others think that Alltop is filling a need, for mainstream people to get into the RSS reading scene. Mick Liubinskas wrote that “I can see my wife and even my dad using it.” Mick said that “they are now both looking for stuff to read and are ready to venture outside of the news sits they know, but they are not quite sure where to start.”
Chris Shipley of GuideWireGroup came to a similar conclusion to Mick, noting also that the sourcing of material is an important part of Alltop. Chris said that Alltop is “a collection of the stuff that top bloggers, Twitterers, and social media buffs like to read. Its not the wisdom of crowds, so much as the wisdom of the most engaged social media advocates.” I agree with Chris that the content selection on Alltop is smart and savvy - these are quality blogs. Certainly Alltop has a much broader set of sources than its inspiration, PopURLs (a collection of popular, but slightly cliched by now, blog and social media sources).
I like Alltop. It is a simple app, so I think Mike Arrington had a valid point there. But it’s effective and it is definitely an easy scan for people looking for social news to read. It won’t satisfy many early adopter types, who will continue to use the likes of Google Reader and Newsgator for ‘heavy lifting’ of RSS feeds. And early adopters will continue to use the likes of Netvibes and Pageflakes for their Alltop-like reading - i.e. when you just want to scan a bunch of your top news sources - because those apps are much more functional and configurable than Alltop.
Will Alltop entice mainstream readers to follow blogs and use RSS more? I hope it does, but there is still a psychological factor to overcome in getting mainstream people to read blogs. While some people recognize that blogs are as much a part of the news ecosystem as mainstream media these days, many others still see blogging as a way to let the world know what you had for breakfast. So a service like Alltop is unlikely to change the latter attitude, which is unfortunately the most common one (not helped by mainstream media, which often portrays blogs as superficial social networking sites).
RSS for the masses? Not sure I’d go that far, but Alltop is a nice, simple service that you can start pointing your non-geek friends and family to.