Jul 8 2023


Reading Who killed Google Reader?, I was struck by this:

At that point, most people experienced the internet by typing in URLs and going to websites. A few tools like NetNewsWire and Bloglines had cropped up to make it easier to subscribe to lots of sites in one place, but these RSS readers were mostly tools for nerds. Most users were stuck managing bookmarks and browser windows and furiously refreshing their favorite sites just to see what was new. Wetherell’s prototype wasn’t complicated like NetNewsWire, it didn’t crash like Bloglines, and the Javascript interface felt fast and smooth. It immediately felt like a better way to keep up with the web.” [Emphasis added]

I was familiar with using RSS readers under Windows from before I switched to MacOS X and grew to love NetNewsWire, but I never found NetNewsWire complicated.1 Far from it. Brent Simmons did a hell of a job of making it easy to maintain and follow a local collection of feeds, even back in those days when using dial-up Internet connections was the norm.

But then, I built many of my online habits around a cycle of going online so my Usenet client could refresh its news group subscriptions list, then while offline selecting those threads I wanted to read that hadn’t already been flagged by my Usenet client automatically2 before going back online to grab the rest of what I wanted to read and possibly composing the occasional reply, so I was happy to bask in the ease of use of a nice GUI client at the price of jumping online and off again.

All of which, I guess, makes me one of those nerds.3

  1. I did try Google Reader, but for me it didn’t accomplish anything I wasn’t already getting done by other means.↩︎

  2. In my Windows days I was using Forté’s Agent NNTP client to read Usenet, all the while wishing for score files but realising that I valued the GUI approach of Agent more highly than I did the prospect of running a more full-featured and mature NNTP client in a command line.↩︎

  3. More accurately, it reminds me that I’m an old nerd.↩︎