Comunitee: A New Social News Site For Mainstream Readers

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Does the world need another social news site? That’s the big question about today’s launch of Comunitee, a new beta destination for tracking the news you want to follow, commenting and sharing stories with your friends. I mean, it’s not like we already have Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for this, right?

Well, not exactly. For those who want the full, real-time firehose of feeds for a set of specific topics, there are fewer options on the desktop that don’t involve geeky RSS readers. And given what Google did to Google Reader, a lot of people are still looking for online alternatives.

To be clear, Comunitee is not an RSS reader. It’s a news aggregator. The service tracks several thousand sources across ten major categories, like U.S., World, Politics, Tech, Sports, Health, etc. You can also set up a particular keyword or phrase as a category. (So for example, you could track all the mentions of “Nexus Prime.”)

Comunitee has a lot of competition. On mobile, it comes from apps like Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, Flud, Riversip, and dozens of others. On the desktop, there are other social news sites, social networks, RSS readers, personal homepages and more. What will make Comunitee stand out?

For starters, the news site is smarter than your average RSS reader. That is, it gets smarter the more you use it. Using machine learning, the site tracks your reading patterns in order to surface content more closely matched to your interests as indicated by your reading behavior. That alone could make the service an interesting alternative to a pure RSS solution. How well these algorithms work over an extended period of time, I can’t say. The site is only now launching into beta, and there has been limited time to test.

One thing I did notice, however, was that the site was not as real-time or comprehensive as it should be. The company tells me that the newsfeeds refresh every 60 seconds, but there have been some kinks during the early private beta. (Last week, every article you saw was not older than 2 minutes, I’m told. Today, that’s not the case, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.) Assuming the team can squash that particular bug, then they also need to address the service’s comprehensiveness. For example, using the above-mentioned query “Nexus Prime,” Comunitee can’t find a thing.

That’s a shame because the site itself looks good. It’s easy to set up and navigate. You can see the top news trends on the right, along with info about what your friends are reading (both top stories and a real-time feed), and you can comment directly within Comunitee itself. The site will direct you to the actual news outlet for reading, though, so it’s not entirely publisher-unfriendly.

Comunitee is backed by $170K in angel funding, and is led by serial entrepreneur Dan Daszkowski, who founded BusinessMart, Inc., which was acquired by Internet Brands, Inc. (formerly CarsDirect) in 2009 and Daszign, which was acquired by CoutureCandy, Inc. in 2006.