It's no secret we're Google Reader users here at Webware. We've got a Newbie's Guide for it, and wholly recommend it to folks who want a simple feed-reading experience. That said the product is not without its faults. Earlier today we got a pitch from a cool new service called Favorit that's definitely gunning to take some market share away from Google and other Web based RSS readers. The good news is that it's got a lot of things going for it that others do not.
First things first, Favorit does all the usual things you'd expect--pulling in RSS feeds, providing a directory of new feeds, and giving you tools to share stories you like with others. But that's not what makes it different. Favorit is linked up with Disqus, a universal community discussion service we covered when it launched back in October. This means you can comment on any story on a Disqus-enabled blog right in the reader, and have it show up alongside the rest of the comments on the original story page. Compared with Google Reader, which only shows you how many comments a story has, you can actually read through comments like their own little feed--right in the reader.
That's not the coolest part, though. Favorit is set up like ReadBurner and Streamy to figure out what stories are hot, then promote them to a various hot topic pages. Each story features buttons to vote the content up or down, and even bothers to keeps track of how a story's been voted on. The system employs a small chart that evaluates those votes combined with user attention (time spent reading it) over the past 36 hours. If there were more users taking advantage of the service, it would be a fun way to track the timeline of how the popular stories get hot, similar to that cool DiggCharts visualization we checked out back in May (on a side note, DiggCharts is DOA).
Besides the comments and popular stories, Favorit has taken a nice open approach to sharing stories with others. Like Google Reader you get your own RSS feed of shared stories. You can also add other users' shared story boxes (called "slices") where you can add stories you think they'd like or set it up to automatically grab stories using Boolean values--it's like setting up a smart playlist in iTunes. Additionally Favorit incorporates several popular social publishing mediums, letting you post stories straight to Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.
While I found Favorit to be a little less user friendly than Google Reader when it comes to adding feeds, the reading system is off to a good start. Browsing stories is very user friendly, and Google Reader users will feel right at home with similar keyboard shortcuts and tools to discover new feeds. Where the system currently falls apart is the OPML importing, and subscribing to feeds--the latter of which is nowhere to be seen. You can find feeds by searching for them and browsing the directory, but there's not a clear and easy subscribe button anywhere--something I hope will be amended.
The service is in private beta for the time being, although the creators were kind enough to provide us 200 invites for Webware readers.
To manage this we've set up a form after the break and will be giving the first 200 to sign-up access.
Update: Invitations are now used up. Thanks to everyone who signed up. We'll be delivering your invites early next week, so keep an eye on your inbox.
Update 3/6: Invitations have been sent out to everyone who registered on the form. The handy bulk inviter let me know that a bunch of you already got your invites from elsewhere. Be sure to check your spam box in case you're wondering where yours are.