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RSS and Browsers

In John's preview of OmniWeb 5, he touches briefly on the OmniGroup's "support" for RSS:

OmniWeb 5 supports RSS, but not well. It auto-detects RSS feeds, which is great, but it doesn’t allow you to subscribe to them in standalone newsreaders… the right way to do this is to support standalone clients (probably via the feed:// URL protocol). To me, this is analogous to a web browser handling mailto:// URLs on its own, instead of passing them off to your email client.

I agree. A click on a feed:// URL should result in an externally defined application launching and taking the URL. What Mac OS X lacks, however, is a location for setting such a global setting: you've gotta launch Mail to change your default email client and you've gotta launch Safari to change your default Web browser. That's ridiculous (but also off-topic).

OmniWeb "supports" RSS. It lists the URLs and titles of recently changed entries on my blog, and that's great. If I read only my blog, or perhaps three or four others, and if I used OmniWeb regularly instead of simply out of curiosity, I'd be quite content with this simple approach.

OmniWeb's "support" for RSS begs the question: does this impinge on, say, NetNewsWire? Does it remove potential customers? If Safari (which is free, unlike OmniWeb) were to do just as OW is doing, would that remove potential customers?

In a word, I believe the answer to be "nah." In a few more words: "quite the opposite - OW's support creates more potential customers."

Anyone aggregating more than a few feeds would find OW's approach far too simplistic. However, there remain a great number of people who haven't got a clue what RSS or "feeds" are. If a browser supports them - but weakly - then that serves as an introduction. As such users increase their knowledge, skillset, and hell, their blogroll, they'll seek out more powerful tools.

Safari, btw, already supports "itms://" links, even though those - like "feed://" links would be - are just HTTP links. It easily hands off "itms://" links to iTunes, so there's no reason it couldn't hand "feed://" links off to an RSS aggregator. Where is our system prefs pane for Internet settings? Why can't I delete Mail if I never use it? Because I need it to change my preferred email client from Entourage to PowerMail, Mailsmith, or some other "non-Mail.app" app? Puh-lease!

5 Responses to "RSS and Browsers"

  1. If you type in a feed:// url in safari, it will open in NetNewsWire. Is that what you want?

  2. You're right - It's a system-wide preference - so altering those prefs should be done in system prefs rather than apps.

    I wish Apple would re-implement the Internet prefpane - but until then:

    http://monkeyfood.com/software/moreinternet/

  3. I also recommend IC-Switch for choosing which app responds to feed: URLs.

    http://flip.macrobyte.net/software/ic-switch_en

    As the author of an OS X aggregator, am I concerned about OmniWeb as competition? No. I agree with you that it raises the visibility of RSS, and that's a good thing for OmniWeb and for my software.

    I do wish there were a way to tell OmniWeb that you want to subscribe in an external aggregator, though. I've thought about emailing them, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. (I think you're right that ideally they'd respect the feed: URL setting.)

  4. I believe the idea is that ANY mail client should allow you to set the default mail client. Likewise for web browsers, etc.

  5. The off-topic point about Internet Config and protocol handlers is one that I wittered about last year.

    It's ridiculous that every app that handles a given protocol (or psuedo-protocol, like feed://) should have to offer an option of whether it's the default, especially given the fact that this is functionality which was once supported (and even provided) by the OS, both before and after the Mac OS X transition.

    Sigh.


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