I resisted the headline 'Desktop RSS Readers Are Dead', but our latest poll of which methods people use to read RSS feeds is showing a clear trend - more people are using browser-based RSS Readers and less are using desktop Readers. This week's poll is almost identical to a poll we did 6 months ago, which gives us an opportunity to compare results. We're currently asking: How do you primarily read your feeds? It currently has 1,335 votes (after a couple of days), compared to 1,197 just over 6 months ago in January.

Here is the comparison:

  July 2007 January 2007 Change
Web-based (e.g. Bloglines, Google Reader, Rojo) 59% 52% + 7%
Desktop (e.g. FeedDemon, NetNewsWire) 13% 19% - 6%
Start Page (Pageflakes, Netvibes, etc) 16% 14% (+ 2%)* no change
Browser (e.g. Firefox Live Bookmarks) 6% 8% - 2%
Email or email-based client (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird) 3% 3% no change
Social Network (Facebook, MySpace, etc) 0% - n/a
Other (please comment) 2% 2% no change

* in January we had the following category, which scored 2%: Portal-based (e.g. MyYahoo, ThePortNetwork). In the current poll, we're categorizing this type of product as 'Start Pages'.


While this isn't overly scientific, each poll had over 1,000 separate voters and we are polling a tech-savvy audience. So I believe the results show definite trends that are worth analyzing.

Firstly, the above stats show that people are migrating from desktop to browser-based RSS Readers. The percentage change in one is virtually a mirror of the other, while none of the other categories has changed much (if any). Web-based Readers are up 7% and desktop Readers are down 6%. In the space of 6 months. I attribute this mostly to the strong growth of Google Reader, which in most peoples' Feedburner stats is in the top 3 Readers. Google Reader has been the most innovative major RSS Reader over the past year, and a lot of people I know use it as their main Reader now (as do I). Bloglines and Rojo also continue to be popular.

And consider this: the top desktop RSS Reader in R/WW's Feedburner stats is NetNewsWire. It's ranked 12th overall, well behind Google Reader, Bloglines, Rojo and other browser-based Readers.

The other trend of note is that start pages have now overtaken desktop Readers. According to our current poll, 16% of respondants use a start page (iGoogle, MyYahoo, Pageflakes, Netvibes, et al) as their main way to read feeds. 13% say they use a desktop Reader. In January, desktop RSS Readers still held the edge. This change is significant, given that a few years ago start pages didn't exist (maybe apart from MyYahoo) and desktop RSS Readers were the bee's knees among geeks.

What do you make of these stats? Do you agree desktop RSS Readers are a dying breed?

Update: Greg Reinacker (Newsgator) and Nick Bradbury (FeedDemon, owned by Newsgator) have both posted responses. Greg says that "I think much of the the "drop" Richard is seeing in desktop client popularity is most likely due in large part to the way the new desktop clients retrieve data", while Nick says that I "neglected to consider behind-the-firewall Enterprise customers who can't use web-based RSS readers, and was based on a survey whose audience is far more likely to use a web-based reader to start with." Both fair criticisms, although I would say that I don't necessarily agree that R/WW's audience is pre-disposed to use web-based aggregators.