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Web Browser-based Feed Aggregators
By: Barzan 'Tony' Antal
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    Table of Contents:
  • Web Browser-based Feed Aggregators
  • Standard Browsers
  • RSS Extensions for Firefox
  • RSS Extensions continued
  • Closing Thoughts

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    Web Browser-based Feed Aggregators - Standard Browsers

    (Page 2 of 5 )

    Standard Browsers

    Let's discuss the standard way to manage news aggregation with the following browsers: Internet Explorer (IE 7), Firefox, Opera and Safari (popularity order).

    IE 7 shows off a "Favorites Center," which is a location in bookmarks (favorites), but also news feeds. All of the feeds are stored in their own section, so they aren't mixed with bookmarks. You can keep them neatly organized. You have the ability to sort them via the author's name, title, and date. Furthermore, it supports the OPML importing standard, which is especially useful when importing lists of multiple feeds.

    You can configure the syndication interval for each of your feeds independently, enable or disable the downloading of attached files, or limit the amount of saved topics. However, you cannot apply the same changes to all of your feeds at once; it's necessary to select and configure them manually for each feed. This can be frustrating.

    The way Microsoft implemented feed aggregation into IE is quite typical; it's the usual de facto standard "easy to use" approach. It's utterly intuitive, and therefore it does not require a high level of computer experience. Moreover, the display mode is newspaper-like, which makes it familiar to the user.

    Firefox uses a different approach for aggregation. Firefox manages RSS feeds just like bookmarks. The display mode is either via the sidebar or within the bookmark menu. The lack of a "newspaper" view can become annoying, especially since it offers only the list of titles and nothing more (no brief introductions).

    There are no extra features. Currently, with the latest version, you cannot configure the syndication interval either. All in all, the "default" news reading feature lacks some of the most essential functions and it's not intuitive. Fortunately for Firefox, there are a half-dozen strong extensions, which will be reviewed later.

    To be honest, Opera didn't leave a lasting impression for managing RSS feeds either. You can at least configure the syndication interval from a choice of predefined time intervals, but you cannot go lower than five minutes. The display mode is similar to the incorporated e-mail client, and feeds are managed just like emails. This is fairly decent.

    The feeds are "shrunken down" because all kinds of media content are excluded. None of the attachments are displayed in the aforementioned feeds display mode. This means you'll see plain text despite the fact that your subscribed feed might be broadcasting images, movie clips, and might be powered by rich text. But so what!

    Safari is no doubt developed by Apple. You notice its look-and-feel vibe right away. And yes, the overall design is also intuitive and easy-to-use, not just beautiful. It has a feature that displays the RSS logo in the URL bar in your browser if you come across a website that syndicates feeds. So you won't be required to search for the link in order to subscribe. See what I mean by simplification to enhance the "novice" user experience?

    You are able to customize the length of articles and also sort and filter articles by date, title, or source. Moreover, you can even search for keywords. The display mode is really re-fashionable; it's the newspaper view, so you can easily manage your feeds. It also has a folder-like view; you can add each of these folders to your toolbars and such.

    As a conclusion, I think that Safari wins in the "out-of-box" news aggregation function category. All of the other browsers are handling news feeds quite poorly. IE7's feed management is a bit improved and it may be enough for average people, but I for one won't sacrifice browser stability for that. Ever.

    The way Opera and Firefox handle feeds is quite shameful. Like I said, fortunately for Firefox, we have a lot of extensions. Yes, extensions are really addictive. I know this resonates with many FF enthusiasts -- yes, I'm talking to those of you running Firefox with dozens of extras. As for Opera, you have a collection of Widgets from which you can pick.

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