We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with information from all corners – from social networking sites, to blogs, to our very own inboxes. One of the ways in which we streamline this information and make it easier to handle is through RSS feeds. RSS feeds let publishers such as blog authors or social network users syndicate content automatically from their sites and deliver them right to their readers’ RSS aggregators or feed readers. It’s the simplicity of the process that has led to RSS sometimes being called “Really Simple Syndication”. But are RSS feeds actually that simple to handle? Bay Area startup SwarmIQ’s founder Gautam Sampathkumar doesn’t seem to think so.
Putting the “Simple” back in Really Simple Syndication
SwarmIQ is a RSS reader which markets itself as “intelligent and personalized”. Despite the popularity of RSS feeds, many new users still shy away from using them. Sampathkumar wants to make RSS feeds accessible to everyone – from veteran RSS users to internet newbies. According to him, if any product requires a tutorial video or a FAQ for people to start using it, then it clearly is not doing a good enough job of making things easy and self evident.
Setting up a SwarmIQ account is as easy as importing an OPML file or directly authenticating it to import your Google Reader sources. Users can also import individual sources, either by name if it is already in the SwarmIQ system, or by the Feed URL if it isn’t. SwarmIQ aims to solve the problem of information overload by understanding its users’ tastes and usage patterns and adapting them by delivering increasingly relevant news.
Control and Transparency are the key
According to Sampathkumar, their first rule is to give users complete control and transparency. RSS users, especially power users, hate having the feeling that the service they use promotes or hides certain headlines. Most SwarmIQ users want all items, unfiltered. Those who like customizing their experience and setting up things exactly how they want are given a plethora of tools to do so. The product is an attempt to combine the power and ease-of-use that users have come to expect from their RSS readers with seamless unobtrusive social features.
SwarmIQ lets you skim through vast numbers of headlines, organize countless feeds, tag articles for reading later and share seamlessly to social networks, email and “read it later” services like Pocket, Instapaper and Evernote. For those who don’t want to deal with raw, unfiltered data, there are options to get recommendations and choose from different curated interests.
The road ahead – What does the future hold?
The imminent demise of Google Reader has left a significant gap in the market composed of countless RSS users who are now looking for other options to turn to. SwarmIQ hopes to capture this market and get as many ex-Google Readers users on board as possible. Their longer term goal is to continually keep adding “intelligence” to their system and personalizing user experiences. They aim to do this while keeping the user in control as well – this can prove to be a bit of a “balancing act” as Sampathkumar says.
Their immediate expansion plans include iOS and Android ports, which they will be working on as they hit certain metrics centred around user engagement in the next 3-4 months. Once that is secured, they plan to move from their bootstrapped funding model to raising a round of funding.
The long term objective centers around deriving semantic knowledge and intelligence from the huge amount of data being pulled into the system on a daily basis and presenting this to their users in a way that is compelling and useful.