January 31, 2008

FeedDemon is Now Free -- Read Why

NewsGator is now giving away several of their RSS or news reader programs for free. These include FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, NewsGator Inbox, and NewsGator Go at the free download page.

Many of you know FeedDemon has been my preferred RSS reader since I started using it at least 4-5 years ago. I've also played around with other readers, both PC client and web-based, but kept going back to FeedDemon. I also chose FeedDemon as the best RSS reader or news aggregator for a prior Law Office Computing Shootout feature article. It packs a ton of useful features into a very intuitive, fast, and polished package. But rather than extoll upon its many great features and advantages, MediaBlab has already done a fine job of that.

Lest ye think NewsGator is abandoning their client-based software programs, it's just the opposite according to Nick Bradbury, the programming genius behind FeedDemon. In a nutshell, they're making it free to expand their client software users. Why? Because we humble human beings seem to make an effective relevance engine. You see, when using one of these now-free NewsGator programs, it sends back information when one flags an article, saves a clipping, or e-mails it to a friend. By these simple actions, we're signifying that particular item was important or relevant. I'm quite reminded of how Google was founded upon ranking relevance via tracking a site's inbound links. Nick gets it.

All this aggregated information helps NewsGator determine which RSS feeds and articles are more relevant than others, and helps them "bubble it up" to the surface for their enterprise customers. That's where NewsGator is refocusing their efforts and attention. So in exchange for getting the software free, users help them by doing nothing more than they are already -- reading, flagging, searching, etc. As Nick says, "Your attention is valuable." Sounds very Web 2.0 to me.

To their credit, both Nick and NewsGator recognized that we're just a little concerned about our privacy. Nick covers that in his post, and points us to NewsGator's FAQ so we can decide for ourselves. Apparently, we can choose to disable the data collection and reporting mechanisms, albeit at the loss of features like data synchronization.

Also, since many of their enterprise customers use these very same programs, Newsgator appears to have a vested interest in keeping them updated rather than abandoning them.

I give them credit. In a very innovative way, they're providing value in offering a first-rate RSS reader for free and enabling us to see what news is popular with others. NewsGator is gaining value in return while being fairly transparent about it. Of course, the new free FeedDemon 2.6 specifically contains more "phone home" mechanisms for "attention reporting". While I would normally suggest staying with an earlier version for privacy reasons, if their FAQ is accurate and we can indeed disable those tracking and communication methods, then there's probably little harm. Besides, even if they could still track my RSS reading habits, there's nothing there that would make me miss any sleep. But I'd still hold them accountable so that all users have a clean choice.

I also really like Nick's attitude and customer focus in his other blog post:

"Sure, I enjoy making money as much as the next guy or gal, but I'm really doing this because it's fun. I like writing software, and I'm going to keep writing it until my fingers break off.

There's no point in creating software in a vacuum - you've got to make it useful, make it scratch an itch, for it to be truly rewarding. And to do that, you've got to listen. You've got to pay attention to what people are asking for and what they're complaining about.

So, regardless of whether you've paid for FeedDemon in the past or you're a new user now that it's free, I'm not going to stop listening. It wouldn't be fun otherwise."

Now there's an attitude I wish more software developers would fervently adopt!

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Privacy & Security  |  Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard