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This article was published on March 31, 2008

RSS service Toluu: can they compete with Google Reader?

RSS service Toluu: can they compete with Google Reader?
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
Story by

Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

UPDATE: Caleb Elston from Toluu supplied us with 100 invites. Thanks Caleb! Leave a comment if you’d like to receive one.

Ok, it’s not like Friendfeed, but RSS service Toluu is getting a fair amount of attention in the blogosphere. After receiving a beta invite from founder Caleb Elston, I figured it was about time to test the service myself.

So, you could use Toluu as a RSS reader, but it’s not the main purpose of the service. On Toluu it’s all about importing, sharing and discovering. Or like they say themselves: “Feeds locked away in a solitary feedreader? Set them free!” The idea is that you should share your RSS feeds with friends, because the best way to discover new talented bloggers is through the recommendations of your pals. Toluu makes this whole sharing part pretty easy by just asking for an OPML file. Moreover, they offer OpenId support so signing up shouldn’t be all too hard either.

The fun part starts after uploading your feeds. Toluu matches you with people who have the same taste in blogs and recommends feeds ‘you might like’. In my case, the recommended blogs turn out to be Copyblogger and the personal writings of Jason Calacanis and Steve Rubel. Oh well, why not following some more web celebs? However, the recommendations do make sense, since I’m really into blogging and Web 2.0.


Another interesting feature is the Activity page. You’ll get a neat overview of what feeds your friends are adding (with the easy-to-use bookmarklet) and who they’ve added as a contact.

The RSS service is still in beta so I will forgive them some mishaps in the interface. For example, the amount of clicks can be drastically reduced by showing the recommend feeds on the ‘Matches’ page.

ReadWriteWeb really digs this service and even gives you 10 Reasons Why You’re Going to Love Toluu, and they’re not the only one. Yet I have a major concern why Toluu might have some trouble attracting a larger crowd.

The thing is, I’m not sure whether Toluu can survive the community-creating efforts of Google. In case you haven’t noticed yet, Google is adding more and more social features.

Google Reader friendsOne of the latest examples of this strategy happened to be Google Reader-related. Last December, the Internet giant linked Gtalk with Reader so that you can see what your contacts like. This move is based on the same philosophy of Toluu: nobody can make better recommendations than your friends. You trust them, probably have some similar interests and moreover, they’re important to you. Before I was introduced to Toluu, this was THE way for me to discover new blogs and interesting articles.

Google Reader RecommendationsAnother Google Reader feature that might be a threat to Toluu is the recommendations box. It’s right in your face when open Reader and it often comes up with some good blogs.

Despite these overlapping functions, I did decide to use Toluu. Yet I guess this has more to do with my natural interest for new services rather than that I had the feeling I missed something. Moreover, I think Toluu is a very sympathetic service as they promote sharing and have also joined the open data movement.

Discover the feeds I read. Follow me on to see!However, I’m afraid that a lot of Google Readers will just think: “Well, I already know what my Gtalk contacts read, why would I join this new service where none of my friends are?”.

Well, I can just hope that the invite-function and badges like the one the left will do their viral job.

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