News apps that learn your preferences with the passage of time have been around for quite a while now, but Fireplug has just made this concept novel once again. Released by the team behind retickr, Fireplug combines social networking, automation and a sense of competition to bring you the only news reader you are ever likely to need on your iPhone. Like most modern apps of this genre, Fireplug has a ‘smart’ news stream that offers more relevant stories as you interact more often with the app. You can also maintain separate streams for different topics, but the best feature of the app is that everything you read is reflected on your profile. This makes Fireplug a good app if you are interested in keeping track of your own reading trends and showing off your expertise on your subjects of interest based on what you read.
You have to sign up for the service using your email ID, though for a more social experience, Fireplug suggests connecting your Facebook account with the app as well. If you are too lazy to configure things manually, Fireplug has you covered. The ‘My Streams’ section features just random stories at first, but it tracks your interests to get more personal as time passes. The ‘Social News’ section lists articles shared by you (or your friends) on Facebook. For just some idle browsing, you get a few readymade ‘Streams’, though you can edit them and add new ones to the list quite easily. Your personal streams can consist of as many categories and sources as you want. If a feed is not listed in Fireplug by default, you can use the ‘Search’ option to find it and add it to your personal stream.
All the streams in Fireplug get refreshed quite regularly. You can swipe across the screen to navigate to neighboring streams, while the same gesture works for changing stories within a feed. You can bookmark articles, like or dislike them and share them via email.
Fireplug tracks the tags of every item you read, and these tags are used in drawing up your expertise stats. Head to your profile to see the total number of articles you have read, shared and liked. The same stats are available for sources too. Fireplug rates its users according to the number of articles they have read. You are granted a rating for the most frequent tags that have ever come up in the stories you found interesting. The more you read, the more badges you earn from Fireplug, which can be a good way of keeping yourself motivated and having some bragging rights among friends.
Fireplug has a pretty neat interface, and is optimized for iPhone/iPod touch. It is available as a free download, and you should give it a try if you are looking for a smart yet customizable news reader.