I've written a few times now about being disappointed with Bloglines this year - and their lack of progress since they got bought by Ask Jeeves. Now Russell Beattie has come out and said it too - and he got a response from Bloglines chief Mark Fletcher in the comments. Mark said (excerpted):
"You’re right in that we haven’t been rolling out new features recently. We’ve been working hard on the back-end of the system. Every metric in the system (# feeds, # articles, page views, etc) has more than doubled recently. Keeping up with that growth is challenging to anybody. I’m very happy to say that we’re actually crawling feeds more quickly and consistently now than we have in many months. Is it perfect yet? No, but we’re definitely getting there, and of course we’re not done yet. [...] As I hope you’ll agree, focusing on scaling the system instead of new features is the correct strategy. That doesn’t mean you’ll never see a new feature again. We’ll continue to out small improvements as well until we complete the scaling work; next week, for example, we’ll be adding horoscopes and lottery feeds to the system. We’re also working on improving the UI and we have a great AJAX designer on the team now."
While I have no issue with Bloglines focusing on the backend, the lack of new functionality and features does leave them vulnerable to losing a lot of their core readers and champions. They're already no longer the market darling amongst bloggers. For example I've now switched to Rojo and am pretty much championing them now, rather than Bloglines (although I still have a picture of me wearing a Bloglines tee-shirt on my About page!). And if you look at the comments in Russ' post, you'll see there are other people who have become just as frustrated with Bloglines' lack of progress.
The thing is, Mark Fletcher promised new functionality and features months ago. This is what Mark wrote in my own blog comments in May 2005:
"...we have a number a projects underway here at Bloglines to improve the user experience. It's actually our number one priority. Not just new features like package tracking, which was recently rolled out, or weather forecasts, which will be rolled out next week. But improvements to the UI and better ways of dealing with information overload."
Is it just that the UI experience is no longer number 1 priority and scaling the system has become top priority instead? I suppose you can't argue with that - the system needs to be stable and meeting demand. But I really think they need to hurry up and implement some 2005-era UI functionality. It should've been done at least 6 months ago and they're not doing themselves any favors by letting Rojo, Newsgator Online, Start.com and all the other web-based RSS Aggregators overtake them in functionality.
Bloglines still dominates the market and ease-of-use remains their trump card, but how long can they ride that wave? It's frankly amazing I care enough to even write this - so it's obvious I still have some affection for Bloglines the product. It's just sad to see a product that was first to market by a long shot, fail to keep the momentum up as soon as they get bought out.