Alltop, the “online magazine rack” that offers visitors a clean overview of RSS-feed enabled sources categorized by topic, is launching version 3.0 today with the addition of a custom feed reader that’s supposed to make it easier for users to personalize their user experience when browsing for online news. But how personalized is it really?
The feature, dubbed MyAlltop, lets users create a custom page with a so-called vanity URL (e.g. my.alltop.com/techcrunch) where they can add feeds from a variety of topics and display all the widgets on one page, which can then be shared with others. All users need to do is register and add feeds to their public pages by clicking a small plus sign displayed next to feed widgets.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Personalized start pages like Netvibes, iGoogle, PageFlakes, etc. have been around for years, and they pretty much all offer the above and much more. MyAlltop only lets you grab feeds that are already on Alltop, so no custom widgets for you (tough luck if you wanted to insert your mom’s blog). Furthermore, Alltop doesn’t have a decent search function, which makes it very hard to look for sources to add unless I’m 100% certain they will be in a specific category. With 31,000 sources in 550 topics, they’re hurting themselves not to make search a priority instead of launching new features like MyAlltop.
For example, I can’t find our sister site MobileCrunch anywhere on Alltop (not even in the Mobile category), so that pretty much blocks me from creating a public TechCrunch presence on Alltop with all our feeds in it. All I could do at this point is notify Alltop that there’s a great resource on all things mobile missing in the pre-defined category list of feeds and hope that they add it. Personalization it ain’t.
You could of course claim that Alltop takes the hassle out of having to locate the RSS feeds of your favorite sources and go through a few steps in order to add them to any personalized feed reader, but how much of a problem is this really? I think it’s a bit of a stretch to claim MyAlltop simplifies creating a custom feed reader because it already has been dead simple for many years. In my opinion, anyone who thinks the process of personalizing your RSS feed reading experience with Netvibes or iGoogle is cumbersome will probably feel the same way after trying MyAlltop.
Here’s a video about Alltop (the new feature is explained a bit in the end):