Shyftr, which stands for "Share Your Feeds Together," is a new online feed reader that combines RSS with a social network that's built solely around the feeds you read and share with your friends. You can use Shyftr to read your own feeds, read the feeds of other users by viewing their feed list, or search through the content of the Shyftr network to find new feeds that interest you. Will Shyftr be the next big thing for RSS? Or is just another social network?
When you sign up for a Shyftr account, you're presented with a screen where you can optionally choose to add some of the more popular feeds from various categories to your feed list. There are feeds available in areas like News, Gossip, Technology & Science, Food/Home, Sports, Music, Politics, TV/Film/Entertainment, Humor, Shopping, and strangely, New York, wherein the city itself gets its own category. This made more sense when I realized that the company was founded by Upshot Interactive, a company based in NYC, but it still seems like an odd addition. You can click the checkboxes next to the items or you can click "Skip This" to move on without adding any feeds.
Now you'll be on your profile page where you can customize your profile picture and bio and add feeds to your account. You can add feeds manually, but the ability to import an OPML file isn't available yet. Another option is to visit the "Popular" tab at the top to find popular feeds. If you read a story on Shyftr and you decide you would like to subscribe to that feed, you use the "Shyft" button to add that feed to your reading list.
When working with your Feed List, you can view all items, unread items, and can mark items as read, just as you can in Google Reader. Also like Google Reader, you can tag feeds as you read them, however, in Shyftr, your tags are displayed as a tag cloud and not as a long list of items at the bottom of your reader. Your feeds can be organized into folders, which are called "Feed Sets" in Shyftr, and these will show the number of unread items. next to them.
Shyftr Feed List
What really makes Shyftr stand out from other feed readers is the social aspect. You can add friends and see what they're reading and what they've "pocketed" (saved). "Pocketed" is sort of like Google Reader's "Shared items," but since the whole reading list is shared, calling it "shared" just wouldn't work. You can easily add your friends feeds to your reader by using the "Shyft" button, just as you can with feeds on the "Popular" page. ("Unshyft" will unsubscribe you.)
You and your friends can send individual stories to each other or suggest feeds by using Shyftr's "suggest" feature, which is accessing by a button at the top of the feed or, for sharing feed content, below the story itself. Like RSSmeme (our coverage), all feeds can be commented on, too.
Using Shyftr's search function, you can find new feeds, friends, or content. You just enter in your search term, then click "Content," "Feeds," or "Members," depending on what you're looking for. Shyftr also introduces "Guides," which are "virtual friends," and not actual people, who can help you find feeds of interest. For example, there is a Guide for Apple, a Guide for Movies, a Guide for CNET, etc.
Shyftr Search Result
Feed reading has been traditionally been a solo activity and until recently, with the advent of "Shared Items" and RSS aggregators, did RSS finally venture into the social space.
If Shyftr adds critical features, like the ability to import OPML for starters, then they may have a jump on the next big trend for RSS - social RSS. That is, unless people's social networking burnout has everyone taking a breather from joining more social networks. Although you can add "friends" in Shyftr, they might not be the same kind of friends as you have in Google Reader. In Google Reader, your friends are really your friends - they are people that you email with, something that implies a tighter connection than what you have with "online buddies."
Still, I can see where it would be the social aspect of Shyftr could allow it to be an excellent resource for finding new sources of information. Just imagine if you could poke into the feed list of your favorite bloggers! (Something that ShareYourOPML allowed, before going offline). So I can see where Shyftr has potential if enough people join.