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Tue, 2005-Dec-20

Integrate, don't go Orange!

Tim Bray has adopted the orange feed link on his website, but isn't happy about it:

Despite that, it is a bad idea; a temporary measure at best. Based on recent experience with my Mom and another Mac newbie, this whole feed-reading thing ain’t gonna become mainstream until it’s really really integrated.

emphais Tim's. Tim suggests having a standard button somewhere on the browser for a one-click subscribe. I take a diffent tact. I think we should be going really really really integrated. After all, what is a feed reader, except a smart web browser?

When presented with a web page that is associated with atom data a real web browser could keep track of which ones you have read and mark them as such. Given a list of feeds to subscribe to, it could periodically cache them like a feed reader does so that you can read them without waiting. Perhaps you could even view poritions of the sites using a standard font and layout engine like the feed readers do. There really isn't any reason why the two applications have to be separate. Feed readers today are used fairly differently to web browsers, but it needn't necessarily be that way forever. I can see more and more of the web being consumed in this feed-centric way of viewing, and keeping up with changes.

One of the technical challenges today is that an atom feed and a web site are in different formats. It is difficult to relate an atom entry with a section of a web page. Someday soon, however, hAtom of fame will reach maturity. This is an evolution of the Atom specification that is embeddable within a web page. A browser will soon be able to identify blog entries within a page, and a feed reader will soon be able to use the same page as your web browser sees as input.

So let's not talk about integrated web browsing and feed reading, then in the same breath about the two being provided by separate applications. The time of separation will one day come to a close. The web is changing in a way that is becoming more semantic, and I for one see the web browser staying near the forefront of that change. What was not possible a few years ago when browser innovation had gone stale is now becoming a reality again: An interative web. A read/write web. A web 2.0? I think we will experiment with new semantics in feed readers and other new ways of seeing the web, but that these will eventually folded back into the one true web. The data formats will be folded back, and eventually so will the applications themselves.