News Aggregators Aren’t Tied to the Browser

Brent Simmons: False dichotomy

"The thing to remember is that the distinction between aggregator types isn’t between mail-reader style and weblog-style, it’s between GUI apps and browser-based apps."

Brent is trying to bring his former boss to his senses. Good luck. I’ve been using Radio as an aggregator since it included that feature, but after a couple of months with Newsgator, I’d never go back. Meanwhile, Dave Winer is thinking users are stupid and will fall for his blatant misrepresentation of facts, that I’ll address quickly:

1. IE 4.0 channels (based on CDF, a 1997 XML format) and Headline Viewer predate Radio Userland by four and two years respectively, which makes the later hardly a pioneer in that space (and merging news aggregation with blogging was already showcased by Blogger and Moreover with Newsblogger, a now defunct service that never got out of beta).
2. Newsgator, which is the "email-based" RSS reader out there, gives you all the flexibility you need to group and sort entries every way you want, because that’s how Outlook works. (Me, I group by source and sort by time, but you could show everything in flat mode, or group by categories if the feeds you subscribe support them, or do any other grouping and sorting combination, including stacked grouping, though I can’t see the later being useful in that context.)
Well, sorry, aggregator users aren’t stupid, and this anecdotal evidence is telling. It’s almost like explaining that the best place to run a spreadsheet is a browser. As an RSS reader, Radio was fine for its time, but it’s slow, clunky and now totally outdated. Here’s the real story. I know, because I’ve been using IE, then Headline Viewer, then Radio and a couple others, then Newsgator, for the last 7 years. If you write an article about browsers in 2003, you don’t mention that Oracle used to make one, because, well, it’s totally irrelevant to the current marketplace.
The only advantage to a browser-based aggregator is that you’re not tied to a specific PC, but remote access to Radio never worked properly for me, and when I looked around, I was not the only customer in that case. Is there still anyone out there waiting in hope for a new Radio release? I think you just heard the sound of silence.
It’s been what, 10 years since people have been trying to run applications in the browser? Well, isn’t it obvious now that a rich client is still kicking browser-based apps in the butt when sorting and grouping data is a core user scenario? Maybe Laszlo or Flash or the .Net framework or whomever else (is anybody still doing client-side Java at this point?) will eventually deliver the appropriate level of responsiveness and flexibility within the browser, but frankly, this still looks like a long and arduous way ahead. In the meantime, drop the browser if you’re serious about using RSS productively.

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