The Gilmore Gang on feeds in Firefox

The Gilmore Gang touched on the importance of feed aggregation in the Mozilla product line during last week's installment. Persistent feed storage and offline reading capability are mentioned frequently as key features. Considering the addition of RSS support in Thunderbird, Steve Gilmore asked:

Are we seeing the rise of a cross platform RSS aggregator that's essentially available for free from an open source group?

Audio Clip

Just as there was a time when people were willing to pay for web browsers, aggregators are now getting their dollars from the early adopters. In time, the core feature set will be commoditized by FOSS projects and commercial offerings will be relegated to advanced users and special applications of the syndication standards. Fanning the flames of the RSS ubiquity push was Apple's announcement of Safari RSS at its WWDC in June. With user expectations raised, Firefox seems naked without a comparable offering. Scott Rafer, CEO of Feedster, remarked:

The Firefox guys have been trying to not upset the variety of Firefox plugins that are decent RSS aggregators, and they're going to have to give up and pick one at some point.. and at some point not very long in the future I would suspect.

Audio Clip

Forumzilla gets mentioned as a candidate for integration. Haven't explored Forumzilla yet, but I understand that it's a Thunderbird extension allowing feeds to be manipulated though the mail reading interface, and that it's the basis for the newly added feed aggregation in Thunderbird itself.

Integrating with the email client does offer efficiency in the form of workflow reuse, but I see the browser as being the ideal spot to land feed reading functionality. The overlap between activities is just too strong to ignore. Sage is an attempt to leverage this overlap, and provide the simplicity required for mass adoption while offering enough features to woo power users. A big and increasingly important step for us will be to provide persistent storage of feed items, opening the door to another level of functionality.

October 4, 2004 @ 8:50 PM | Category: Technology


IMHO, persistent storage is vastly overrated and can be a complete pain in conjunction with the offline reading capability. When I had tried it ages back, Newsmonster had driven me completely nuts with its offline cache and in the age of always on connections, this should really be a non-issue.

Another problem with offline caches is that we still are nowhere close to getting every site admin to save bandwidth with conditional gets and the ilk when it comes to RSS feeds. If offline reading makes its way to even 20% of the users out there, botnets would be the least of our worries when it comes to DDoSing sites off the net.

Firefox does not seem naked without an in built RSS aggregator, what it lacks though is a kick ass extensions repository and extensions manager. Integrating the aggregator into the browser would recreate the IE nightmare all over again and more or less slow down development of aggregators, stand alone or integrated for the same reason - lack of competition.

Other than the ranked results that I would really really love to see in Sage, two things that can be easily rolled into it would be back and forward buttons like in a browser and the option to have selected feeds (full text) render in the contents area.

Posted by: codey on October 7, 2004 @ 9:11 AM

On integration, what's key is providing the necessary amount of out-of-the-box functionality. Users need a simple path to productive feed reading. In its current state, Live Bookmarks won't be enough to get people hooked. Keep in mind, integration doesn't necessarily mean complete incorporation, there are several degrees here. Bundling core extensions with certain Firefox install packages might be an option. Or perhaps a built-in feed parsing and auto-discovery framework, a la Live Bookmarks, with the ability to shoehorn users into extensions offering more advanced functionality.

Posted by: Peter Andrews on October 22, 2004 @ 12:34 PM

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