February 13, 2008

LinkRiver Enters Life Streaming Fray, Focused on Link Blogs

If 2007 was all about Facebook and Twitter, 2008 is shaping up to be all about link blogs, and sharing what you're consuming on the Web with friends. The newest service to enter the picture is an intriguing entry, LinkRiver, which harnesses your RSS streams from multiple services, including Google Reader shared items, Twitter, del.icio.us, Yahoo! Bookmarks and others, and posts them to a single "Stream". As your friends join the service, or you choose to subscribed to other LinkRiver users, these small streams become a "River" of shared links, hence the name.

Seeded with a number of high profile "who's who" members of the blogosphere, from Marc Andreessen, Mathew Ingram and Robert Scoble to Andrew Chen, Nick Bradbury and Jeremy Zawodny, the site's early beta stage gives an excellent window into a simplified river of links from you and your peers. And as the service is all about sharing what you're doing and what you're interested in, you can "share" any item that flows through your river, or even use a handy Javascript tool to share any page on the Web directly to your own stream.

The brains behind the new service is Adam Stiles, who first gained a following on the Web due to his work on NetCaptor from 1999 to 2004, where among many other innovations, he developed an alternative, tabbed, browser interface for Internet Explorer, well before Microsoft adopted them. Since then, Adam developed an anti-phishing solution, licensed to AOL, and sold to MarkMonitor in 2006, where he remains today.

The focus for LinkRiver, as he wrote me in an e-mail on Tuesday, is "to be laser-focused on links and link blogs, breaking down the many silos (del.icio.us, Google Reader, Ma.gnolia) to let anyone share anything with anyone regardless of which services they use."

LinkRiver users, after being granted beta access (sign up here), can add any number of services to their stream, so long as the services support RSS. In my trying out the service, I added my Google Reader shared items, my Del.icio.us bookmarks, the blog's RSS feed, StumbleUpon activity and Twitter. While LinkRiver so far doesn't offer the ease of adding differing services as FriendFeed does today, copying and pasting a URL from any feed you generate really isn't all that difficult.

Not only can you generate your own stream, but LinkRiver enables you to follow anybody you want to, like Twitter for link blogs. Your river will get more busy with the more active people you follow, just like it does if you add more friends to your FriendFeed. In my last few weeks of trying out LinkRiver, not only have I added on Silicon Valley notables like Steve Rubel, Jason Calacanis, and FriendFeed founders Bret Taylor and Paul Buchheit, but fellow B-Listers MG Siegler and Frederic Lardinois. In fact, Adam was all too happy to show off the flexibility of his service by developing a "L33T Tech News River", highlighting all the shares from those authoring the "Elite Tech News" Reddit, which just crossed the 400 subscriber mark.

LinkRiver, at first glance, offers a clean, simple interface to sharing all relevant items in one place, and getting connected or following friends. The ability to "share" other shared items and calculate the total number of shares is unique to LinkRiver among life streaming sites, borrowing a page from other intriguing new services like ReadBurner. Also, with the ability to follow friends in this simple, river-like format, it trumps the folder-driven concept of Spokeo.

LinkRiver is launching without a vast array of interactive features, as FriendFeed has developed in its months of availability, but we can expect the service to continue to innovate. Comments to shared items are expected to be rolled out, dependent on user feedback, and you can already see the most popular items shared in the last day, week, month, or all-time.

If you would like to gain early access to LinkRiver, sign up to their beta program. If you were one of the link bloggers Adam first started with, you'll no doubt get near-instant access. If you would like to see my stream, you can start here: http://linkriver.com/louis.