inessential by Brent Simmons

Brent’s Psychic Predictions for 2004

Are RSS aggregators pretty much there, just needing some tweaks and small features—or at they still at the very beginning of their evolution, with a long road still ahead?

This question was asked on the NetNewsWire beta testing list. It’s a good question.

Answer: aggregators still have a long road ahead. What you see now is just the beginning.

I have an idea of some of the things you’ll see in 2004 (not just in NetNewsWire but in aggregators in general). So consider this as Brent’s psychic predictions for 2004.

1. Atom syndication support. Some aggregators already have this, and I suspect most will by mid-2004.

2. Synching. The idea is to synchronize not only your subscription lists but also the read/unread status of individual headlines—and to make it so it works between different apps, even apps running on different operating systems.

3. Easier subscribing. One of the problems for new users is the problem of subscribing to feeds. The “feed” URL scheme is a step forward here, because it makes it so you can subscribe to feeds directly from your browser. It also means instead of lots of ways to do this, which is inherently confusing, aggregator developers and users can collapse it down to one way. (I suspect there will be other good ideas too—especially in the realm of finding feeds.) Making all this easy for new users is a high priority.

Anyway... individual aggregators, NetNewsWire included, will add lots of other new features not listed above. The above are just the things I predict aggregators will do in common for 2004. I expect lots of innovation to come from all over, but I can’t predict what those innovations will be.

Years from now aggregators will be like email apps: we’ll know what an aggregator should do and what the UI conventions are. But for now we get to be creative, try new ideas, see what sticks. So—my last prediction—I expect 2004 to be fun.