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April 27, 2004

Death to aggregators, Vol. 2

Gareth Simpson quotes an old post of mine, where I wished that aggregators could be more closely integrated into browsers, since most of the time, the aggregator serves as the browser's burly bouncer, figuring out who gets in and who's locked out.

I wrote that in November 2002, and I've come a long way since then, and both the browsers and aggregators have too, with aggregators growing browser features, and browsers becoming RSS-savvy. That's great, because it provides a possibility of eliminating one of the three programs that must always be open for web traffic: the browser, the mail client, and the feed reader.

But even that's just a start. Where do I see this going? In Wired's Googlemania issue, they asked several designers to offer their vision for the future of Google (link). My favorite was Joshua Davis, but it's pointed in the wrong direction. Sure, I care about Edward Tufte, but imagine his Google prototype with you in the center. Here's my web traffic for the day, here are my latest e-mails, here's the day's calendar, here are the 20 or so headlines I'm likely to be interested in. Enter a name in the search box, and you get a results page that includes address book info, appointments, recent e-mails to and from that name, and web search results on the name. All a program needs to know about to do much of this is RSS, POP/IMAP, and search engine interfaces. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see something very much like this in Outlook 2005 or 2006.

As a Mac guy, I see this as a replacement for the Finder, which again, is pointed in the wrong direction. The Finder is focused on files sitting on your hard drive, but most of the interesting stuff is out there, floating on the corporate intranet or on the internet. How much of your day do you use dealing with files on your hard drive? If you're like me, most of your computer's cycles are spent surfing e-mail, the web, and news feeds. The default view into the soul of your computer shouldn't be a floating hard drive or "My Computer" icon. It should be more of an interactive assistant and newspaper all rolled into one.

April 27, 2004 in Weblogs | Permalink

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Comments

Gee - sounds a lot like the vision for Chandler! http://www.osafoundation.org

Posted by: Oren Sreebny at Apr 27, 2004 7:29:15 PM

Oren -- it does indeed sound like Chandler; I haven't really been paying attention to the developments over there lately, but you've inspired me to download the .3 beta release and kick the tires....

Posted by: Frank at Apr 27, 2004 9:06:39 PM

It sounds a lot like Zoe -- www.zoe.nu -- with the addition of RSS browsing (it's in there, but I never used it).

I agree: I spend little time messing with "My Computer" and more interacting with "My World" which consists of email, stuff in my aggregator and even occasionally stuff from real life that requires some augmentation with Google or Amazon.

Posted by: paul at Apr 27, 2004 11:56:20 PM

The Evolution PIM client for Linux does something similar to what you mention. As well as being a normal PIM (email, address book, todo items, calendar) it also shows you headlines from a customisable list of RSS feeds. See the screenshot on http://www.ximian.com/images/screenshots/evolution/summary.png and look at the lower left - the CNet news is provided by RSS.

Ximian also lets you subscribe the iCal files. It's very good. :)

Posted by: Phil Wilson at Apr 28, 2004 5:44:58 AM

How do you clear the hurdle of being clear that what you're looking at is on the internet and not on your harddrive? My biggest pet peeve with deskside support was people that would click ok to save some file and then wouldn't know where in god's name they'd saved the file. It could have been on any of the mapped drives they had.

Frankly, I like a distinct line between what's on my system and what's on the net in various forms just as I like distinct feel's in the floor, road and highway when I walk or drive. I for one hate the Explorer is your interface for everything in the current versions of windows. The clunky feel doesn't help either.

Posted by: Ryan Gill at May 24, 2004 11:44:40 AM

So what do you make of OS X Tiger and it's inclusion of RSS as tey another thing Safari can do?

Posted by: paul at Jun 30, 2004 12:39:33 AM