inessential by Brent Simmons

The Sites Drawer

The Sites Drawer will be gone as of NetNewsWire 3.2. It was a great feature, but it’s no longer needed.

In case you never used it, here’s a screenshot. Then I’ll tell you why it existed — and what was one of the cool, unanticipated side effects.

Sites Drawer screenshot

Why the Sites Drawer existed in the first place

When I was first writing NetNewsWire back in 2002, most sites didn’t have feeds and people didn’t know what RSS was.

So I wanted a way for people to be able to find something to read without having to go nuts looking for stuff.

I got the idea initially from the classic Usenet reader NewsWatcher. You could get the full group list from the server, which would show you all the groups you could subscribe to.

Well, I knew I couldn’t list every RSS feed, but I could at least give people a bunch of them, enough to get started. Even though it took time to find feeds and maintain the list, it was important.

But these days tons of sites have feeds, and RSS is far more well-known. It’s not so important to include a directory inside the app — and the time spent maintaining the list can be better spent on other things.

A major difference between now and 2002: people used to write in all the time asking how to find feeds and subscribe to them. We pretty much don’t ever get that question anymore.

Unanticipated pure marketing genius

We told people, early on, that they could ask us to add their feed to the Sites Drawer. I don’t think Sheila or I ever said no to any requests. (Sheila updated the Sites Drawer for NetNewsWire 2.x and 3.0 — the glory days of the Sites Drawer. She was way better at it than I was.)

What I didn’t think about, but what quickly became apparent, was that people loved having their feed listed in the app. You could figure that many of our users were also webloggers — cutting-edge types, early adopters. When they saw their own feed in the app, they felt a sense of co-ownership.

And that was totally, awesomely great.

Webloggers who feel attached to your app are more likely to write about it. And that’s how good word spreads — word-of-blog.

I can’t say it was the only reason NetNewsWire did well from it’s earliest days, but it was part of it.

I wish I could say we totally planned it that way. We didn’t, but at least we were smart enough to notice the effect early on and keep it going.

And, frankly, it was fun for me. I didn’t have a blogroll, and I tended to avoid social networking sites. Wanna see my friends? Look in the Sites Drawer. ;)