The future of the RSS/News aggregator

Interesting discussions going on. Dave Winer is writing up a document called “What is a News Aggregator?

A news aggregator is a piece of software that periodically reads a set of news sources, in one of several XML-based formats, finds the new bits, and displays them in reverse-chronological order on a single page.

Deus X (0xDECAFBAD) takes things a bit futher, wanting to redefine the News Aggregator:

Aggregators desperately need to grow toward more flexibility and scan-ability. A few things I’d really like to see addressed:

  • De-emphasis of seen & older items from sites, but not complete hiding. Context between entries on weblogs is important.
  • Optional grouping of items from the same or similar weblogs. Context between entries, and between blogs is important.
  • Emphasis of newer items, tracking the time line and signalling attention to changes. Radio does this, but mostly to the exclusion of other concerns.
  • Preventing sites with few updates from getting lost in a wash of frequently updating sites. Some of the best sites may update once every few days with something worth reading, but simple reverse-chronological order pushes the quiet sites out in the maelstrom

Jenny Levine (The Shifted Librarian) also has some comments about the issue, I especially like her reference to her chat with Adam Curry:

[…] as Les Orchard and Adam note, we need other ways to access the items flowing through the faucet. We need to be able to weight those channels we feel are most important, we need subject and keyword access, we need to be able to group channels and posts in whatever arbitrary ways we see fit. We’ll also need ways to scale enclosures, audio, video, and otherwise (it will happen someday). Adam throws in ratings, especially by a trusted group, in order to highlight the flotsam from the jetsam.

Of course, then Adam totally blew me away with the idea of throwing away the computer interface altogether and using an aggregator to access everything from email to instant messages. Whoa. I’ll take the red pill!

The point, of course, is that the next generation of aggregator software, if done right, has the chance to tip, which would be a Martha Stewart Good Thing.