Firefox Makes Gains as RSS Reader

The open source Firefox web browser has made headlines as it chips away at the dominant market position of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. But Firefox is also grabbing market share as an RSS reader, according to new data from RSS service provider Feedburner, which says the browser is now the third-most popular RSS client in its usage stats.

Feedburner's data, based on an analysis of its 800 most popular feeds, show that web-based feedreader Bloglines is the clear market leader with 32.8 percent of the volume, followed by the NetNewsWire client for Mac OS X with 16.9 percent. Firefox is next with 7.8 percent, placing it ahead of established RSS clients including Pluck (7.2%), NewsGator (4.5%), FeedDemon (3.8%) and the web-based My Yahoo (2.6%).

The Firefox browser autodetects the availablility of an RSS feed for a site, and can integrate feeds using Live Bookmarks feature or extensions such as Sage.

Feedburner provides custom RSS feeds that allow web site publishers to collect statistics on RSS readership and enhance their feeds with photos, affiliate links and eventually ads. While it publishes feeds for thousands of web sites, Feedburner's data represents a small slice of a complex market that has become even more crowded in recent months. Its stats from the first week of January found 719 different RSS clients, compared to 409 in September. That increase is likely tied to growing integration of RSS in applications and web sites, rather than desktop readers.

Firefox has been downloaded more than 14 million times since Version 1.0 was launched Nov. 9 with improved handling of RSS. While most comparisons in the renewed browser wars have focused on security or usability, the Feedburner data suggests that Firefox' RSS features are being used by a significant percentage of its users.

Internet Explorer does not yet have a native newsreader function. In an interview with Gizmodo, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said he uses RSS and hinted at Microsoft initiatives to address the growth of blogging and RSS. "I have the add-on to Outlook that lets me see (RSS feeds)," Gates said. "I think blogging is super-important and we've got to do a lot more software."