Regator, which released a private beta today, is courting these mainstream users by giving them a very straightforward and easy way to browse RSS feeds while keeping the layout of more traditional RSS aggregators.While quite a few mainstream users use RSS daily on their personalized homepages without ever knowing it, more traditional RSS aggregators are only slowly expanding beyond the early adopter crowd.
Courting Mainstream Users
A couple of things set Regator apart from other RSS aggregators like Bloglines, Newsgator, or Google Reader. First of all, Regator only offers a set of roughly 3000 blogs to subscribe to, as well as 'channels,' like Technology, Politics, Sports, etc.
You can't import your own OPML files or subscribe to blogs from outside of Regator. While this is clearly meant to keep things simple for Regator's user base, it does limit its usefulness for more advanced users. You can, however, nominate your favorite blogs to be added to Regator's catalog.
Another difference between Regator and other RSS aggregators is that while Regator opens in a River of News style view, the default view is organized by popularity, not chronology. Users can vote up or down on every post and those votes determine the position of the posts on the site. Regator does have the option to switch to a chronological view.
While Regator does not feature any social networking or sharing functions yet, users can comment on blog posts, though those comments stay within the Regator silo.
One thing that might make bloggers happy, but makes Regator just a little bit less useful is the fact that it only displays summaries and not the full text of all blog posts. It also doesn't display any pictures from those blog posts, even if they are part of the summary. Regator says they are doing this to give back to the bloggers featured on the site. Given the many discussions around full feeds and community sites lately, they are definitely doing the right thing, especially because Regator has comments on its site.
Audio and Video
Besides blog posts, Regator also functions as a podcast and video player. Posts with embedded media like mp3 files or YouTube videos will display those in either a pop-up player for videos or a little audio player at the bottom of the screen (see screenshot). Especially the audio player is a nifty solution, as you can keep browsing the site while the player stays out of the way at the bottom of the page.
Overall, Regator seems like a very well thought out product. Finding blogs and channels to read is easy and the "What's Hot" bar on the right side gives you a quick overview of what the most hotly debated topics in the blogosphere are right now. The green theme, which can't be changed, might not be everybody's cup of tea, but the layout of the site works very well.
Regator has given us 100 invites - you can claim yours by heading to Regator's homepage and using 'readwriteweb' as your invite code.