Is Favorit a Digg killer?

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Fav.or.it is tiny start-up based in a small office an hour’s drive from London. But this “feature rich community-based feed reading system” is about to unleash a wholly original take on reading blogs and news feeds which could see it face-down even the social bookmarking giants like Digg and the newer kids like CoComment.

[Note: this is an edited version of a much longer post which appears on TechCrunch UK]

Favorit brings together blog reading and replying into one simple web application. Its innovative web interface is designed to allow users to let users read any kind of RSS feed, cut-up, mashed-up with other feeds or “sliced” in any kind of way.

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It’s also is a classic Web 2.0 startup which will attempt to solve one of the web’s most frustrating issues, i.e. the separation of reading RSS feeds from being able to comment on the post. Admittedly any blog post is only a click away from a user being able to comment on it. But imagine being to comment, Twitter-like, under a feed and not even have to care about filling in your name, email, etc. Just comment, save and carry on reading. Having witnessed it myself at an exclusive demo, I can confirm that this is what Favorit is capable of.

Favorit will this week launch a private beta based on a submitted database of 10,000 blog feeds. (The site is exhibiting at two events in London, FOWA and mashup demo).

Turning feeds into slices

Favorit approaches the issue of reading RSS feeds with the concept of ‘slices’. Each post in a feed is categorised and tagged. By choosing a category, tag or rank (or a combination of each) the user can filter what they are reading in a more efficient manner than the normal ‘hose’ effect of having to laboriously wade through hundreds of blog posts in hundreds of feeds.

Comment posting with an API

Based on PHP and the Zend Framework, Favorit will launch an API during the public beta enabling it to hook into many more blogging platforms to allow it to send comments back to the sites. Founder Nick Halstead hopes the API will create an ecosystem outside of Favorit.

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Now of course there is a glaring issue here. Sites thrive on traffic. But by removing barriers to commenting, Favorit potentially creates a faster turnaround of comments to blogs, and especially blogs at the end of the ‘long tail’.

Tracking attention beats voting

Because Favorit uses Javascript it will gauge how long you read a post and what you did before during and after. This data is invaluable both for advertising targeting and for data mining, and its far more sutble than Digg’s voing system. Eventually the site hopes to rank as many as a million blogs in order of attention.

Because it will track what people actually read, Favorit will be a far more accurate reflection of what is popular online than Digg, which everyone knows is increasingly subject to gaming.

Although Halstead went to great lengths with me to emphasise that Favorit is a different animal than Digg, there is no getting away from the comparison. And it’s quite clear that capturing attention meta-data beats ‘voting’ hands down.

A blogging platform as well?!

Favorit is not just going to be a feed reader. It is also a blogging platform. By creating a subdomain, such as ‘gadgets.fav.or.it’ users will be able to write their own posts into the system. Using this, they can pull in their feed from their blog as well as post directly into Favorit. Any comments on the Favorit subdomain blog then appear back at the original blog.

Since it’s all widget based, users will be able to ‘pimp’ their Favorit blogs with a set of widgets – many form outside suppliers – which Favorit will build into the system. But you won’t be able to access the underlying HTML or CSS.

Here’s where the revenue comes in. Favorit plans to share advertising revenues with users who create these subdomain blogs.

However, controversially, a user could create a subdomain site with someone else’s feed.

If the Nike subdomain pulls in everything there is to know about Nike, Google could be among those knocking on the door given the usefulness of this data. But so could the lawyers.
Because of its simplicity for reading and commenting Favorit has the potential to open up feed-reading to a wider audience than perhaps other aggregators have done so far. And could well disrupt older ‘voting’ style social bookmarking sites.

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