Love RSS feeds but are generally unhappy about the structured systems that let you browse them? You might like Feedly, a very nontraditional approach to viewing your favorite feeds that ends up feeling a lot like portal news sites of yore, but with a tight-knit social network built in to help you discover and share new content with friends.
The service, which is currently Firefox-only (how convenient) and requires you to install a small browser plug-in, will slurp up your bookmarks, social networking log-ins, news preferences, and an entire OPML file and will organize it on to various news pages.
The result is something some have coined as Yahoo 2.0, with each area of interest set up as its own news section--complete with top stories that change throughout the day.
You can read entire articles and feeds without having to visit the source site. For the purists, there's also a simple button you can click to bring up each article in a light boxed window on top of the feed. In fact, there are several ways to view content, either with large thumbnails and abstracts, or just headlines. My personal favorite is the thumbnail view, which doesn't even tell you what the article is until you mouse over it, but which will grab graphics from the post and present it on a large grid. Users with big screens will love this.
To me it feels like a very early attempt at helping people categorize the mess that can become a list of bookmarks and feeds in excess of 200 sites--something most are unlikely to have. To that end, Feedly's organization is one of its strong suits. You can go in and tweak your feeds or services at any time.
It'll also help you out with a feature called "spring cleaning," which will highlight feeds that haven't been updated in a while--something Google Reader does, but with less visual flair. You can then nix these feeds or simply turn them off with a simple switch. They're even color coded with yellow, orange, and red to mark the severity of the deadness. Nice.
I'm a little wary of the fact that Feedly requires you to install a browser plug-in, but for now it makes sense: once installed you get special contextual menus for content you're viewing in Feedly. This includes a highlighter that lets you make small annotations and special options to tweak or share that feed with others. It even taps into other sites like Twitter in case you want to share what you're reading there.
My hope is that they find a workaround so that you'll be able to access all of this from any browser, anywhere without problems.
Personally I find more value in Google Reader's tightly organized system of viewing feeds, which resembled something a little closer to an e-mail in box, but I can see how people who like to view hot news on a single page would flock to this product.
Also, the privacy and user transparency needs some work, because from the very onset you're sharing what you're annotating, along with feeds that you subscribe to, with everyone else. It also automatically subscribes you to a grouping of feeds in Google Reader, something which is now being turned off after user complaints.
Below is a screenshot of what the service looks like once you've pumped it full of feeds. There's also the three-minute demo provided by creator Edwin Khodabakchian.
feedly guided tour from Edwin Khodabakchian on Vimeo.