On July 3rd, FastLadder unleashed a new RSS reader on the blogosphere. They have gone mostly unnoticed, and, after a bit of fiddling with the service, I know why. Unfortunately for the company, they’re competing in an already crowded marketplace. While their RSS reader is rather good looking and functions without a hitch, most, if not all, of the features provided by FastLadder are available on the similar products of industry heavyweights. Google Reader immediately comes to mind when looking at FastLadder.
There’s no barrier to entry for FastLadder. If you’re already using an RSS reader, all you have to do is export your OPML and then import it to FastLadder. I use Netvibes, and the exporting was instantaneous. Importing all of my feeds and choosing which to include in FastLadder took about five minutes. For those not currently using an RSS reader, FastLadder offers subscription buttons for content producers to make it easier for their users, and a bookmarklet for individuals.
The application, just like competitor Google Reader, includes a bevy of keyboard shortcuts. These make the application far easier to use than the mouse interface, which, by itself, is simple but rather easy to use. The application allows users to organize feeds in different categories or to set them up by the number of unread items. Other similar metrics are also aloud to organize feeds. Unfortunately, clicking on a feed marks all items in it as read. Reading feeds in FastLadder is almost like reading them on the actual site. Everything renders well, including photos and videos. Some useful stats are included, such as the number of subscribers to a certain feed. FastLadder also offers users the option to share their feeds.
FastLadder has a lot of competition. My personal favorite, Netvibes, does more than FastLadder and includes a rather functional and nifty AJAX RSS reader. Industry heavyweights like Google that provide homepages to users also pose significant obstacles to FastLadder’s success. While FastLadder’s RSS reader is easy to use, it’s rather simplistic and fails to set itself apart from everything else in the crowd.