Thoughts on RSS

I’ve always seen RSS (and atom and all these other feed systems) as a mixed blessing. While things like bloglines have definitely saved me a huge amount of time, I never liked the fact that RSS feeds don’t reflect the formatting of the original content.
Take for example “any”:http://www.mtwebb.com of “my”:http://www.electricrelxation.com “friends'”:http://thewayofche.blogspot.com “sites”:http://www.johnvey.com . While it’s nice to be alerted of updated content on their site in a uniform and automated and consistent way, using an RSS reader also prevents me from seeing all the work they’ve put in to make their sites look nice. The same problem also presents itself for more _commercial_ sites, i.e. ones that want to show you ads along with their content. Sure they can embed ads into their feeds, but that usually just looks really lame. The typical approach is just to syndicate excerpts of articles, forcing readers to click on a link and view full content in a browser window so that they can get ad impressions.
It seems like you could do better. I tend to imagine the ideal world in terms of a UI. At first, I thought, why not just have a sidebar with bookmarks to your subscribed sites, and when you click on one, the site loads in the content window. Then I thought of a slightly more elaborate version: it still looks like a browser, but it has a three column view. On the left most, you have a list of ‘feeds’. When you click on a feed, you get a listing of new entries in that feed in the middle column. If you click on an entry in the middle column, you get an embeded browser in the right column showing you the actual content.
Actually, the middle column could be a browser too. Sites should be allowed to control what their feeds look like when viewed. The left most column should still each feed with the number of updated entries since last viewing.
Maybe it can be done as a web app. I supposed I might give it a try at some point. It’d just be a better bloglines.

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