Evolution of Feed Readers?

Two independent sources of information, interconnected triggered this post.

The first one was from Emily Chang's eHub, one of the greatest sources of applications of read-write web (think web 2.0, if you want). It is called SocialMail. Check out the link. Some cool ideas there.

SocialMail can help you turn email into feeds. Why do you need SocialMail? Why would you want to convert an email into a web feed? Lots of reasons!

The idea seems attractive. How about reading all my mail from an RSS reader? I pushed that thought into my idea stack, bookmarked the site in del.icio.us and moved on.

Then I came across a link from Danny's Oddments. Acrording to Fred Giasson, It looks as if Google has already integrated RSS feeds with their Gmail.

Google is supposed to have tested a RSS feed service for Gmail in their GoogleLabs in 2004. This service put new incoming messages of a Gmail account into a RSS feed. Then if you subscribe to that feed you will see your new Gmail messages directly into your web feed reader. What an excellent idea!

Fred goes on to outline some benefits of using RSS Feed readers.

I thought about all the things that we can aggregate in these days: blog content, incoming emails, UPS package delivery status, calendar events, etc, etc, etc. Then I realized: people have all that content in their face, but what can they do with it?

And suggests an email example:

So, I just received an email from Sophie. Instead of opening my email client to answer her (what would be really, really unproductive), my web feed reader detect that the incoming web feed item is an email and let me answer directly from its interface. Wow, one single application to do all these things.

Mind bombs go off in my head. What if:

  • We can write modules to handle each type of feed? A contact module, a calendar module, a review module etc. The contact module would recognize FOAF information from the feed and perform a set of operations (updating my address book, for example). The calendar module may update my calendar entries.
  • We turn web pages into RSS Feeds (already being done)?
  • We can develop custom modules to handle each microformat as Feed extensions?

There is a lot to think about.

So here is the next step in the evolution of Web Feed Readers:

– Feed readers can understand different types of feeds (email feeds,

9 thoughts on “Evolution of Feed Readers?

  1. Yep, Google has RSS and that is great for your own email. But do you really want to give your personal email’s RSS feed out? Even I am not that social. The idea behind socialmail is to be SOCIAL with an email address – allow more than one person access to a specific address. Thanks for the mention!

  2. Thanks for bringing that up. I was thinking about that a bit. I assumed that these will be private feeds (like the one Google has).

    My enthusiasm was more about the ability for feed reader extensions to do different things with different types of items in a feed.

  3. Hi Dorai!

    I am glad to see that you like the idea. I don’t know if you followed the discussion between me and Taka after you read the blog post but I think that you could like it.

    The idea is really exciting, unfortunately we couldn’t really be able to see real changes/benifits before many years (people have to use such feeds first, then developers would have to create the capabilities in their web feed readers).

    I am sure that such behaviors will exists in the future, but when?




  4. Hi Fred,
    I just looked it up. Thanks for pointing to the discussion. I think Awasu is doing something cool. I will download the plug-in and check it out.

    Alexander brought up a pertinent point about security of email when they travel through feeds. I will investigate that too.

    We did a prototype about 5 years ago where XML attachments to email will trigger various events in an email client. We tried it in Fedora where an appointment (in xml format) will pop up a dialog box, ask you to confirm, reject, postpone and update a yahoo calendar entry. But doing this with RSS feeds (once the security problem is taken care of) will be more elegant since you can do it for any information stream that flows through fields.

  5. Hi Dorai,

    I will give you some hints vis-a-vis the security of email web feeds. Gmail (and probably most of similar services, because there is a lot of them (feeds of emails)) use a SSL channel to deliver the content to the web feed reader. Most of the web feed readers on the market know the SSL and HTTPAuth protocol for that purpose.

    I already developed a protocol for secure distribution of content via web feeds called SWFP (Secure Web Feed Protocol). You can take a look at it there:


    I also wrote a section in that document where I try to articulate why I think that the SSL/HTTPAuth method is not necessarly the best (but is a really good one).

    You can also check some of my blog post in the Web and Security section of my blog to read other blog posts about that question (secure web feeds and GMail).

    Hope it help you in your research,



  6. Fred,
    Thanks. I will take a look and send you questions/comments.

    I am pretty excited about the possibilities. We introduced RSS feeds in our product InfoMinder (which tracks web pages and converts the changes into RSS feeds). We are working on integrating RSS feeds into a portal framework. So Awasu may definitely help.

    Thanks again.

  7. Hi Dorai,

    Great! I am happy to see that you are looking forward by thinking about implementing such concepts in you product.

    BTW “we are working”… who is this “we”? I can’t find an about section on this blog, it’s sad :

    Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question or want to talk about anything else, you know where to contact me.

    have a nice day,



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