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iWeb: Jack of All, Master of None?

David Hyatt's recent blog entry on RSS aggregators, NetNewsWire, and Safari touched off an interesting little debate that I'd like to take further and perhaps broaden. But first, I'd like to state my understanding of a few things.

  1. David is not saying Safari will add RSS aggregating capabilities. He's just broached the subject in public, that's all.
  2. Even if David wanted to put RSS into Safari, he might not. He's on a team. He's also employed by Apple. He'll do what they want in the end.
  3. Almost all of the comments you read at his blog or on any other blog are, by definition, not very indicative of "the general user." Most users don't have blogs and don't even read blogs. Not yet, anyway.

In reality, this discussion is the old "über-app vs. lean and mean" argument. Or, as I like to call it, the "jack of all trades, master of none" argument. A browser "doing everything" is, after all, what led to the rise of people's contention with Internet Explorer. "It's the file browser now? Huh?" The fact that I call it a "jack of all, master of none" problem belies my viewpoint: that there should not be any "über apps." Everything should be focused on one purpose.

Witness Mozilla, a horrid piece of crap that has everything including the kitchen sink in it. Witness the fact that Adobe created ImageReady to serve as the "Webified" version of Photoshop - munging print (CMYK, etc.) with the Web (animated GIFs, etc.) into one app proved too unwieldy. Witness the fact that Apple's done a good job of this lately: iCal for calendars, Address Book for contact management. Imagine if instead of having four separate digital hub iApps (Tunes, Movie, Photo, DVD), they were merged into one app called "iHub."

The argument on the flip side, I suppose, is that "RSS" is the Web. iTunes is music, iPhoto is photos. They're separate - music and photos. Right? RSS is the Web, so Safari should have it too. Fine - but iTunes has the ability to play MP3 streams, and iPhoto can build a Web page for you. Do we now redefine those as "the Web?"

RSS isn't the Web. RSS streams are currently a very useful way to read the news/blogs of the world, oftentimes requiring a browser to view more information (or view it "in context." "The Web" is the visual medium we use to view Web pages. Let's not confuse "The Web" with "The Internet." After all, once you cross the line, where do you draw it? Do you roll Web authoring into Safari? NNW Pro has blog editing. Do you roll editing your shared iCal calendar in Safari? What about software development? File/disk browsing?

Apple has done a great job of separating their apps, yet providing ways for them to interact. I don't want a colossal browser. I want the best Web browser there is. I want the best RSS aggregator there is. I never used the news (NNTP) features in Outlook Express. There are better news readers out there - news readers geared towards doing one thing, and doing it well: reading the news.

Furthermore, Apple software, as good as it is, is often slow to be updated. We live with bugs for months until Apple can compile enough to justify a new release. We'll never see an iCal with a version number of 1.3.7, yet NetNewsWire Pro is currently at 1.0b13. Developers of smaller, master-of-one type applications are quicker to respond.

Could I ignore Safari's RSS aggregator? Sure. I ignore NetNewsWire Pro's editing/posting capabilities, using it over the Lite version for the additional column headers I expect will be rolled back into Lite eventually (at which time I'll revert). Master-of-one software is the way to go (and yes, I'm implying that NNWP is guilty of failing this - better to use NNW Lite and Kung-Log for reading/posting I say).

So yeah, I could ignore Safari's RSS aggregator (again, bear in mind that it may or may not happen - ever), but why should I have to? Why should I have to use a Web browser that is not as good a Web browser as it can be simply because 1/10 of the development time is spent on adding all these cute little extra features. Just give me the best damn browser. If Apple wants to create "iAggregate" that's fine. Just don't ask them to create "."

Here's another entry that make additional points:

Please note that I have not addressed Kottke's ridiculous "Sherfari" stuff. The same rules apply, though: Safari should not be "" - Web services are not Web pages are not RSS streams. Web services may have the word "Web" in them, but they're not the "Web" at all. They're part of the Internet, sure, but not the Web.

7 Responses to "iWeb: Jack of All, Master of None?"

  1. I happen to like Mozilla. But then again, I need web browser, an IMAP capable mail application (that can use LDAP) a newsreader, and an IRC client, while a lot of people do not.

    Mozilla certainly doesn't qualifies as being a 'horrid piece of crap' in my book, but as I said, I might have a different book than most people do.

  2. I have all of those applications too. And an AIM client, and an MP3 player, and Photoshop (and on and on). Just because you need them doesn't mean they should be included in ONE colossal application. Or did you only read one sentence from my entry?

  3. I'm all for having separate apps that do one thing, and one thing good, but it's often difficult to make them all work together, in a seamless fashion, if at all. Yes, this is something Apple is good at, but I don't want to be completely reliant on Apple for my software.

    Lot's of people involved with want to see the suite separated into different products, and I'm all for it. Look at Chimera and Phoenix, the separation of the browser from everything else. I want this to happen just as much as the next person does, (Still waiting for Mail/News to be a separate app.) but I appreciate the choice of having a whole suite available as well when I need it.

    Some of this might be compounded by the fact that I use Mozilla on three platforms, and it's nice to know I won't have to track down an IMAP client for Windows, or an IRC client for Linux, and then deal with three different applications on three different platforms... that I have the ability get all of that in one app can be a good thing.

  4. Auto-content

    Why does this cite-link-quote ("hit-and-run") style of weblogging need to be a manual process at all? Why can't I just click an "auto-content" button and have my software automatically generate a list of, say, a dozen interesting links and quotes cull...

  5. IMHO Safari is an excellent product because it is lean and fast - it boots quickly, it takes up little room in your apps folder and all the interface elements are snappy and responsive. It only does one thing (display webpages with some rudimentary bookmark management), but it does it very well. I would be worried if Safari started to get clever and stray from this philosophy.

  6. Debating the über-browser

    Which would you rather use? 20% of features from 10 huge applications that don't work together and have overlapping

  7. Now is your chance to say something about Safari with perhaps the best chance to influence its development, UI, and eventual outcome. David Hyatt is soliciting ideas. My own list, off the top of my head:Better cookie managementSomething "better" than...