A couple of days ago Steve Rubel noticed a new kind of species in his referral logs. After doing some hunting, he came up with a conclusion: it was clearly an Earthlink. But what was it doing there? And more importantly, why was it there? Jokes aside, it seems that Earthlink — yes, one of the "them" — has quietly launched a Bloglines-style RSS Reader and del.icio.us-style social bookmarking site (both open to everyone, completely free).
The RSS reader is what gets me most, to the point that if I hadn't discovered NewsGater I'd consider switching. It shares a fairly standard Bloglines interface. A lot of fancy stuff and mainly AJAX around places, little tiny icons, clear OPML import (imports every single feed as you click the button; better than I've seen so far with any other online aggregator), and a simple well-standardized (XHTML/CSS) design. What I think is best though, is its speed. Forget those tiny little downtimes and speed-problems you have to face with the other, myEarthLink Reader is fast — at picking up and updating the news and for the user himself.
The second thing they've released is of course the social bookmarking site they call myFavorites. Likewise with the RSS reader, this is well thought-out (who's behind this stuff?). It shares the same concept seen a few times with a lot of social bookmarking sites, so I don't think it needs explaining. What worries me though is not myFavorites itself, but it's use; people using it. Could you believe the top 7 favorites today all link to different parts of microsoft.com — Windows Media, Hotmail, Windows Marketplace — and surprisingly they've had more than 40 favorites. What's up with that? Heck, I didn't even see this kind of bookmarking with delicious on the second week of its launch.
First of all, like others, I'm amazed at Earthlink's move. It clearly shows that this Web 2.0 stuff is growing on people: even those (who we imagine to be) Web 1.0 once-upon-a-time executives sitting at Earthlink. And I don't think this is where it stops. Watch — and I'm willing to put money on this — more Earthlinks of the Web will follow. And I think this can only be good. One of the things missing from Web 2.0 is the non-geeky user-ship and audience, also known as the mainstream. As these mainstream sites start to see this path this path, the mainstream audience will follow. And what could be better than that?