Fav.or.it: Automatic commenting for the people

Feeds and commenting aggregator fav.or.it has finally come out of the door into public beta, with a large number of new features aimed at simplifying interaction with news sites and blogs. Having realised that the site was being misinterpreted as a feed-reader in the style of, say, Google Reader, founder Nick Halstead has now focused on the core goal of making feed reading and commenting as user-friendly and mass market as is humanly possible. So RSS reader afficionados will be dissapointed by Fav.or.it, but then it is not aimed at them, and that’s worth keeping in mind. The original idea, of Fav.or.it – the ability to comment on stories and have the comment appear both on the site and the originating blog – remains, thus making commenting pretty simple. (Halstead explains more in a video I shot last week, below)

The question is, whether people well served by un-tailored news sites like Google News actually know that they want or need something more sophisticated. But certainly, Fav.or.it’s desire to make commenting on blogs a mainstream activity is a laudible one. And if you want to send a comment via your Twitter account, that’s possible too.

Fav.or.it has also made it possible to aggregate your IDs from a large range of services. You can add your IDs from Twitter, FriendFeed, or OpenID, amongst others. Perhaps the closest this comes to the mainstream is Blogger, though they say more are to come.

As promised when I first wrote about Fav.or.it in October last year (some months before the launch of the private beta) the site uses Javascript to gauge how long you read a post, which is very useful data (assuming you don’t just leave the browser open while making a coffee, of course) and they can tell if a window is open longer than would be reasonable to read a post. You can also vote stories up and down. Fav.or.it uses this data to start suggesting items it thinks you’ll like.

There are 2,000 feeds inside Fav.or.it, with 3,000 more to come, but Fav.or.it will add the feeds, not you. Interestingly there is also human powered search in that if you disagree with the category or tags that a particular post has, you can change it. If the community agrees then it gets changed.

What about the copyright of feeds? If content is marked as non-commercial Fav.or.it only shows excerpts. Feed owners can embed advertising into their feeds and Fav.or.it will display these without any alteration.

Developed using the Zend Framework on PHP, they have managing to build a pretty big product with just three developers – rather more than competitor Wikio with 34 people. Wikio’s main pitch is that it is indexing news sites and blogs and majors on new product reviews. It’s a sort of Google News meets Kelkoo meets Digg. Fav.or.it suffers from no such confusion and has developed a pretty amazing system, which is closer to putting the heat on other commenting systems like CoComment, SezWho, Tangler, Disqus and Intense Debate.