inessential by Brent Simmons

New World NetNewsWire

So much has changed since I last worked on NetNewsWire, and my thinking about it has changed too.

The big things remain the same — NetNewsWire is at the intersection of my passions: reading and writing, the open web, and Mac apps. I want to make NetNewsWire a great app with lots of users. No change there.

But so much else has changed.

In 2002, when I started NetNewsWire, there was no Facebook and no Twitter, no iPhones, and most people hadn’t heard of RSS. People got their news by visiting a few sites a few times a day. People subscribed to email newsletters. That was about it.

Since those days a whole bunch of RSS readers — most notably Google Reader — have come and gone. But, interestingly, there are probably more web-based readers these days than ever before.

But most people, it seems, get much of their news from Twitter and Facebook these days, and I believe this is unhealthy for society and for individuals. None of that existed in the early days of NetNewsWire.

Another change: the energy in app-making has moved from Mac to iOS. But I still love Mac apps, and I still believe in them as works of art that people use to get their work done.

Another change is a personal change: I don’t need to make money from NetNewsWire. While I always wanted to make NetNewsWire the best app it could be, I used to have to consider money as I made decisions. I no longer have to.

* * *

My goal used to be to make NetNewsWire a great Mac app with lots of paying users. Secondary goals were to promote reading and writing on the web, the blogosphere, and RSS and open web standards.

My goal now is to make NetNewsWire a great Mac app with lots of users. Other, no-less-important, goals are to:

  • Promote healthier news-reading via the open web and RSS
  • Promote native Mac app development by providing a good example and by making the code open source

(Yes, I’m strongly considering an iOS version, but I’m concentrating on the Mac app first.)

* * *

Let’s go back to how people get their news these days.

NetNewsWire will never be the sole news-gatherer for anybody. People use social networks. They still visit sites manually and subscribe to email newsletters. They use apps like Apple’s News app. They get news from Slack and other group and personal chat apps.

And they use other RSS readers too.

This means that NetNewsWire does not have to be designed as if it’s anybody’s only source of news. And it doesn’t have to be designed to please the maximum number of people.

My thinking, instead, is to make it fit into an ecosystem: it’s just one of a number of sources, and not even the only RSS reader.

This allows me to design more carefully. NetNewsWire used to be quite over-featured, and now I have the luxury of being able to make a leaner NetNewsWire.

I can say no to things that I would have said yes to — I can make it the app I want it to be, an app that hopefully lots of people love using, but that isn’t trying overly hard to be everybody’s friend.

It’s okay, in other words, to remember that there are other RSS readers, and it’s totally a-okay when somebody likes another one more.

In other words, NetNewsWire of the future will be more me than any previous versions were.

PS Here’s a secret: my favorite version of NetNewsWire was always NetNewsWire Lite, which was the pared-down, free version. I keep thinking that I’m designing in the spirit of NetNewsWire Lite.