I just started using the Google Reader application. It’s easy to use and uncluttered. For several years I have been using Rojo’s reader. Here are some initial thoughts about differences between the two products:
1) I like the way the “mark read” feature works in Google Reader.
Marking items as “read” is a tricky thing to do, even though it sounds simple. Do users manually mark things as read? Does having shown it on the screen mark it as read? Google’s product does a great job at this – they show you articles in newspaper-style, but only when you scroll down past them (which you usually do while reading) does it mark-as-read automatically. This works great for the user, as it adds zero-clicks to the process of reading articles, and yet tracks the read/unread status well. So far, I like this much better than Rojo, which has had a difficult time marking read well.
2) The home page is where you read your initial set of articles. Rojo divides this into two tabs of information: “Front Page” and “My Feeds”. The former tracks what is popular overall, and the latter is what you want to read. I have liked Rojo’s front-page a little. It has shown me content which interested me that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. However, because this is the default front-page with Rojo, I most often find myself two-clicks from where I really want to be. Overall, its a great feature which I want – when I am bored. Otherwise, I’d rather just read my stuff. Google Reader only tackles the second, and could definitely use improvement by adding the first.
3) Adding feeds seems simpler in Google. You enter a term, it searches (and in my case found 100% of the feeds I was looking for), and you click the ones you want to add. Rojo has always been a little weak. It is slow, and it doesn’t find results well. For example, searching for “belshe” somehow doesn’t find my feed.
4) One biggest feature which Rojo has is the digg-like “Add Mojo” feature. This is a great way for users to promote the content they like. Google does have a “shared items” feature, but it is really quite different. Having a popularity counter like Rojo or Digg would really help.
5) I am a little worried about Google’s lack of foldering. GMail suffers the same problem. While I am a huge fan of search, I’m not such a fan that I would drop all foldering. How do you manage a large list of feeds without having some way to categorize those which are related?
Overall, both products are very good. I think Google’s is simpler and faster, while Rojo offers more features.