Dave Winer, generally considered the father of RSS, has been playing with different ways of organizing, aggregating and displaying feeds for years. OPML was a meaningful contribution (and, for once, a less controversial one) to the syndication world, allowing users to share, import and export lists of feeds, all using free tools at opmlmanager.com.
Recently, with the launch of the iPhone, an RSS hack that Winer created two years ago has been getting much more attention. Essentially, he’s optimized all of the content that a news site makes available through RSS so that it’s ideal for viewing on a mobile device, removing formatting, images (read: advertising) and all other content extraneous to the simple – and potent – combination of headline, link and summary.
[Photo credit: Biohabit.org)
To use the newsriver, just point your browser, mobile or otherwise, to bbcriver.com for the BBC or nytimesriver.com for the New York Times. To see how it works, view this video of a BlackBerry user browsing a newsriver:
Critics of the technique and technology point out that Avantgo and other clipping services have provided similar functions to early adopters using wireless Palm Pilots or Pocket PCs years ago. That being said, the explosion of smartphones like the BlackBerry, Treo, Windows Mobile devices and now the iPhone has made quick-loading, mobile optimized news content much more compelling than the graphically-clogged homepages of many providers. Of course, the iPhone’s ability to browse the “full Internet” makes it quite possible, even pleasant, to surf through the different major newspaper and online media sites, but if you’re stuck on the EDGE network as you browse, it’s quite possible that a newsriver may be preferable.
I’m not sure whether Dave deserves credit for something entirely new. I do know that what he’s created makes it easier for me to access the news on the go, and for that I thank him. I’m not alone in that. A-list bloggers like Jeff Jarvis, Dan Farber, Read/Write Web, Scoble and Dave Winer himself have all held up newsrivers as something revolutionary. Steve Rubel, over at MicroPersuasion, recently pointed out that Megite, which aggregates blog posts like TechMeme, now provides a newsriver.
The point that Dave makes in the post that reintroduced the concept of the river – and defends it against critics – is much the same as the one I just made above. While it’s been possible to do this sort of thing on a PDA or BlackBerry for some time, no one has made it as easy as simply pointing your mobile browser to a URL.
Now, in the wake of losing my MDA on a fishing trip last weekend (RIP), my next challenge to decide which mobile device I’ll be using to paddle down the newsriver.