It came, it saw, it conquered…and then Google retired it. We are referring of course to Google Reader which passed into the annals of tech history today. It’s demise, of course, has also resulted in a near-frenzied search for alternatives in best “the King is dead, long live the King” tradition. And one of the apps that has surfaced in the process is BuzzFeed. It is by no means a newcomer to news app territory, but has undergone a significant makeover of late, while moving to version 3.0. It claims to deliver a mix of “fun stuff and serious reporting” and for the most part, it succeeds.
The app is free and is a 6.6 MB download from the iTunes App Store. And setting it up is easy – you simply specify the subjects you want to follow from a list of fifteen, and if you are in the mood, you can also specify what you want to see less of as well (from the same list of fifteen). You can opt to sign up for membership (it’s free and let’s you post comments, highlight likes and the like) or sign in using Facebook. The landing page summarises the top stories at the moment and is actually a grid of images with brief descriptions underneath, each of which represents a story. You tap on one and you get the full version, with other stories moving gracefully to the left margin. You can show your appreciation or otherwise for a story, add comments, share it on Facebook and Twitter and so on.
You can either opt to see all the major stories on a single page, or opt to go to stories in different subjects. And in a very interesting spin, you can also check the stories that are popular on the Web, on FeedBuzz, and if that does not satiate your curiosity about what people are reading, well, there is the option to take an eyeful of different feeds titled “EW”, “LOL”, “WTF” and many others. The layout is clean and unfussy and honestly, we loved reading some of the comments and arguments that accompanied some stories.
No, it is not exactly a news addict’s dream, and it is unlikely to be one, as you can only specify subjects that you wish to follow and not pick news sources. And yes, it does seem to have a pro-US bias in terms of story selection, but we have to confess that there is much to like in BuzzFeed too. We love the attempts at building in interactivity and yes, the ability to track stories that are popular or just have attracted three or four letter exclamations is very – for want of a better word – cool as well. In short, this is an app you will find yourself using not just to see what’s up in the world but what people are reading as well. We would have loved fewer crashes – the “oops! something went wrong” messages can be irritating – but all said and done, this is a well-designed news app, which is a treat for those who like to keep track of the news, without obsessing too much about it, and missing out on the fun factor in the process. Definitely worth a download, in our books, just for sheer ease of use and the fun factor.
Available from: iTunes App Store