When Did Earthlink Get So Cool?

Earthlink doesn’t conjure up images of cutting edge new web apps. In fact, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Earthlink is my old dial-up ISP account that took me forever to cancel. And on more than one occasion I’ve asked Steve Gillmor, who boasts Earthlink as a sponsor on his influential tech show Gillmor Gang, if any of his listeners (early adopter types) would ever actually use Earthlink products.

The last couple of months there’ve been a couple of noteworthy Earthlink newsbits – they integrated Pandora (a new web music service) into their ancient portal, and they are testing retail stores in Seattle and San Francisco. They also communicate well with the world through their blog, written by Dave Coustan. All good signs.

Today we got more. Out of nowhere Earthlink launched a Bloglines style RSS reader and a del.icio.us style social bookmarking site. Steve Rubel noticed the sites in his referrer logs and checked it out.

Neither are cutting edge, but the’ve done a good job grabbing the important features that a large audience might want. More importantly, the services are fast.

The RSS reader allows for OPML imports and has a good selection of recommended content. It doesn’t have the advanced features that Rojo and others are coming out with like tagging, content prioritization based on reading habits, etc. (see this overview for other online RSS readers), but it certainly covers the basics well. It also renders HTML and CSS nearly perfectly, something I rant about periodically.

The Bookmarking site, like del.icio.us and others, has a browser button for easy bookmarking, and allows tagging. The interface is clean.

What excites me most about these launches is that a large new audience will be exposed to newish Web 2.0 ideas. About 12 million people visit Earthlink properties each month, generating nearly a billion page views (MyEarthlink alone has about 2 million uniques and 115 million page views) (source: Comscore).