I downloaded IE7 Beta 2 a couple of days ago and it looks to be a pretty solid release (frankly, the memory leaks in Firefox are testing my loyalty). What I’d like to focus on in this post are the RSS capabilities in IE7.
As a feed reader, IE7 is pretty bare-bones. Even though it does go a step further than Firefox in terms of RSS support, it’s still falls way short of the full-featured capabilities of other RSS clients (like FeedDemon). With all that said, you cannot discount Internet Explorer as a feed reader for a few reasons:
- The feed subscription experience is badly broken today. Rather than deliver a pile of jumbled XML, IE7 provides a far friendlier representation of the feed with some explanation on what exactly to do with it. Mind you, there’s still going to be confusion, but this is a huge step in the right direction. Let’s face it, the bridge to RSS is the Web and the perceived leap from web pages to feeds needs to be more elegant. This is a good start.
- Under the hood, IE7 isn’t just casually gathering feeds. If I’m not mistaken, it ships with Microsoft’s planned, underlying feed API. This is a lower level set of feed managment services that not only IE but any feed reader can take advantage of. Of course, you can avoid them altogether (just as every feed reader does today on Windows), but this may prove to be a critical front that Microsoft is establishing.
- Which leads to my next point: synchronization of feeds – lists, read/unread states, new entries, etc. – is going to be a critical. Wherever I am, I want the “state of my feeds” to be the same. As far as I know, only Newsgator does that today (and does it pretty well). A feed API is nice, but a feed API that syncs to an external repository is much nicer. Newsgator should get the lipstick out and pretty itself up. It’s a nice fit.
- The reader itself, which displays feeds in some sort of generic XSL-styled newspaper, is pretty weak. It doesn’t show items read/unread. It also doesn’t give a lot of flexibility in terms of layout, priority, etc. We’re still stuck in the list-on-the-left, entries-on-the-right paradigm a la email clients (which in my opinion, falls sort for RSS). Let’s also keep in mind that this is a beta release (whatever that means these days).
Overall, the RSS “leap” for many (and there are many that don’t know of RSS) gets a lot more fluid with IE7. In my opinion, that’s the biggest advancement of all. All those “XML”‘s and feed icons are cryptic enough. It’s good to see an approach that addresses this shortcoming.