Feed reading belongs in the browser

October 30th, 2004 at 6:27 pm

So stardock has released v1.0 of it’s Blog Navigator, but I’m not going to even bother trying it. I’ve tried Bradsoft’s Feed Demon, and a few other feed reading applications, but everytime I do, I end up uninstalling them within 10-20 minutes of trying them out. As I’ve mentioned before I use a (heavily-hacked) version of Feed on Feeds.

Let me explain to you how I read my feeds. As I browse through feed articles I middle-click any links I wish to follow, thus opening the link in the background, and allowing me to continue browsing my feeds articles. After a number of links have collected in the background (or I’ve run out of articles to read), I then progress through the tabs I’ve opened (repeating the background-link-loading procedure used while reading my feed articles) until I’ve exhausted everything new of interest to me. I find this process to be very unintrusive, and is, infact, the way I browse the web in general (ever since Mozilla added “tabbed browsing“).

The trouble with feed reader applications, at least with regards to the my subscribed feeds, is that 99% of the time, the articles I read make reference to other sites on the internet. This , of course, happens 100% of the time for articles that aren’t full-text-syndicated. So, with a feed reader application, I’m now stuck with the 2 options these readers offer to deal with this situation: open a new browser window to follow the reference, or read the reference inside the feed reader application.

The first option is just unbareable, and the second is fundamentally flawed. Opening a new-window is precisely the situation I escaped from when tabbed browsing was introduced, and lack of tabbed browsing is the #1 feature I miss whenever I’m forced to use Internet Explorer (about 1% of my usage I would guess). The second option, reading the reference inside the application, means that I’m now browsing the web in an interface only partially desinged for the web. “But several feed-readers have your prescious tabbed browsing” you say! Well, yeah some do (Feed Demon for one, and, it seems, Blog Navigator as well), but I choose to use Firefox for a reason. I use it because it’s a damn good web browser, and one which I can “extend” to my hearts content. More to the point, I am used to browsing the web through my web browser. Using a different interface, different hotkeys, different implementations of the features I’m used to in my web browser is unpleasant. I suppose if I were to use my feed reader application to browse the internet full-time, I would become used to that implementation, but for the reasons above, I choose to browse with Firefox (not to mention, I just don’t feel comfortable [read: safe] using Internet Explorer as my webbrowser [regardless of SP2, yet]). The inverse to using my feed-reader as my fulltime browser is, obviously, use my browser as my fulltime feed-reader.

With regards to browsing feeds in an feed-reader application, Robert Scoble says “Already only 15% of my Internet life is in the browser“, which may be valid when you have over 915 subscriptions, and subsequently no time to follow any of the references in any of the blog posts (kidding Scoble, :P), but if anything, I’ve found that the more subscriptions I get, the more time I spend in my browser, following new/interesting topics from the references within my subscrbed feeds. It seems to me, as long as the primary interface of feeds are web sites, their contents are going to be heavily laced with web-references. As long as that’s the case, feed reading needs to be done from within the browser.

“But you’ve already got feedonfeeds or bloglines moron,” you say. Well, yes, that’s true, so why am I even complaining? Well, I like feedonfeeds because it’s something I can customize to behave how I want (ie. change it from this into this) which isn’t doable with a web service like bloglines. Unfortunately work on feedonfeeds has seemed to come to a complete stand-still (unfortunately, well before the project has matured enough for my tastes *cough*layout-code-abstraction*cough*), and every month a new feed-reading application seems to be created. I just wish there was more attention being paid towards more alternatives for browser-based feed reading.