New Feed Icon

Post ImageYou might have read lately that Microsoft and Mozilla have decided to standardize their icons for feeds on the one used in Firefox. The Microsoft RSS Team reported they would adopt the Firefox icon a couple weeks ago:

We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds.

The Outlook 12 team has announced they’ll be using the same icon. Great news!

I think it is great news indeed! A standard icon will go a long way towards making web feeds even more mainstream, especially since I would expect many other companies to now adopt the icon as well. I have added the icon to my website, which you’ll see on the black bar above, next to the web feed icon. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll get rid of the web feed icon or keep it. I guess the new icon is really the “web feed icon” now!

The new icon is a departure from the RSS or XML icons, which is very good. Here’s what I wrote in August:

There’s some really simple reasons that we should be calling them web feeds. When you ask your friend or co-worker about something on the Internet, do you talk about visiting an “HTML page” or a “web page”? Does your web browser (not “HTML page browser”) load up “HTML pages” or “web pages”? Clearly, you talk about web pages, and that’s what your browser loads. There are three very good reasons we use the term web pages…For the very same reasons, we should be using web feeds, not RSS feeds.

Now that the graphic no longer says “rss” or “xml” or any word or acronym at all, I think it will become much easier to adopt the name “web feed”. And yes, we still need a name you can say in words, just like Prince was still called Prince after he adopted an icon to represent himself!

Google Reader

Post ImageGoogle has released another long awaited and much talked about product into beta – Google Reader. I am not a big fan of online news readers, mostly because I like to be able to take posts offline to read in class, or other places that I don’t have Internet access. That being said, Google Reader is actually quite nice. From the website:

Reader automatically gets the latest news and updates for your favorite sites. You can sort your reading list by relevance, which will guess what’s most relevant to you based on how you use Google Reader (such as which items you decide to actually read).

The amount of information on the web is rapidly increasing. Use Reader to discover new content you don’t want to miss. When you come across something worth sharing, quickly email or blog it from within Reader. Star or labels items you want to save for yourself.

I don’t think it’s as obvious as it should be to add a subscription, but once you have that figured out, the interface is very friendly. I especially like how Reader cycles up and down through the items in a subscription – very cool.

Read: Google Reader

NewsGator play for the Mac?

Post ImageAs you are no doubt aware, I am not a Mac user. I have nothing against the Macintosh, I have just always been a Microsoft Windows fanboy I guess. In any case, some interesting Macintosh news for my favorite RSS aggregator, NewsGator. Seems they are interested in purchasing the Mac’s definitive news reader, NetNewsWire, according to Om Malik:

Richard asked about who is on the menu for Newsgator? He has many guesses and one of them is right: Ranchero Software, the company behind Mac-a-licious RSS reader NetNewsWire. Sources in Silicon Valley tell me that this deal is pretty much done, and expect the deal to be announced sometime on Wednesday at Web 2.0. Greg Reinacker refused to comment. This is going to be a major coup for Newsgator, because NNW is the default gold standard in MacRSS space. This deal would be very much of the same caliber as Newsgator’s acquisition of Bradbury Software, the maker of Feed Demon, a Windows only RSS reader. Back then, I posted this question: Will Newsgator finally buy a Mac desktop application and fill out the obvious hole in its product portfolio. With NNW, Newsgator fills that hole, and in swoop enhances the value of Newsgator Online. Syncing across the platforms? That would be nice.

That would indeed be nice! I really need to get a Mac one of these days, if only so I can play with some of the applications I keep hearing about.

UPDATE: This story is now a done deal! That didn’t take long.

Read: Om Malik

Google launches Blog Search

Post ImageGoogle today unveiled Blog Search, which as you might expect searches blogs and is in beta:

While Google web search has allowed you to limit results to popular blog file types such as RSS and XML in web search results for some time, and its news search includes some blogs as sources, Google hasn’t had a specialized tool to surface purely blog postings. In fact, while all of the major search engines have been dabbling with blog and feed search, none has done much with blog search until now.

Google’s new service (in beta, naturally) is available both at google.com/blogsearch and search.blogger.com. Google blog search scans content posted to blogs and feeds in virtually real-time, according to Jason Goldman, Google product manager for blog search. “We look for sites that update pinging services, and then we crawl in real-time so that we can serve up search results that are as fresh as we can,” said Goldman.

Google defines blogs as sites that use RSS and other structured feeds and update content on a regular basis.

Yet another entry into the growing list of blog search engines. Unfortunately, Google’s new Blog Search doesn’t seem to do anything special. It looks and acts like Google though, which make it attractive for a quick search. Can’t help but wonder when the MSN and Yahoo versions will come out now.

Read: SearchEngineWatch

Web Feeds or RSS?

Post ImageLots of discussion going on lately about whether or not Microsoft, and everyone else for that matter, should call RSS feeds “RSS” or “web feeds”. It all started with the first beta release of Internet Explorer 7, in which the term “web feeds” is used. Instead of delving into the complete history of this little debate, I’m going to instead point you to the excellent roundup by Ed Bott. Dave Winer, creator of the RSS standard, chimes in and says, “Don’t screw around with things you didn’t create and don’t understand.”

The debate is not much of a debate, in my opinion. There’s some really simple reasons that we should be calling them web feeds. When you ask your friend or co-worker about something on the Internet, do you talk about visiting an “HTML page” or a “web page”? Does your web browser (not “HTML page browser”) load up “HTML pages” or “web pages”? Clearly, you talk about web pages, and that’s what your browser loads. There are three very good reasons we use the term web pages:

  1. Saying “HTML page” is awkward. The masses like comfortable and simple, not awkward and complex.
  2. Calling a web page an “HTML page” is, technically, misleading. You’d be hard pressed to find any page on the Internet right now that consists of only HTML.
  3. Conceptually, a page that is only HTML, or combines HTML and JavaScript, or combines HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, etc., are all the same thing. When you load a web page, you don’t think about the technology behind it.

For the very same reasons, we should be using web feeds, not RSS feeds. The term “web feed” is comfortable and simple. It doesn’t exclude RDF, or Atom, or RSS with extensions, and so it isn’t technically misleading. And finally, a web feed is a web feed, regardless of the technology that powers it.

There’s other reasons “web feeds” is better than “RSS” too. For the technology to become as natural and invisible as web pages, it needs a simple name. And the technology is so very young – who’s to say that something newer won’t be created that does the same thing, but in a different or better way? Think Atom 1.0 here.

There’s really no reason to publish more than one web feed, and thus no reason to call them anything else. Certainly the applications which consume web feeds should support multiple technologies, like both RSS and Atom, but publishers shouldn’t really have to worry about what technology to use. They should, just as with web pages, pick the technology best suited to the task at hand. You don’t have separate browsers for HTML and HTML with CSS – same goes for web feeds.

If you’re reading this post on the web, you can no doubt see that I am pretty hypocritical. No where on my site will you find the term “web feed”, and I publish both RSS and Atom feeds. Well, my excuse is that until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to the terminology I used. Heck, I even use the orange “XML” icon for my “RSS” feeds (talk about confusing!). Now that I have given it some thought however, I’ll definitely be making some changes. Look for a web feed button soon!