Sunday, May 13, 2007

The web feed icon - a symbol of the future

It got off to a difficult start in life. In the beginning it had many names and several different symbols; RSS, XML, Atom. Also, the formats where generally incompatible, all requiring different "readers". But now finally everything seems to come together.

The symbol you see here was first introduced by Firefox, but it only took off when Microsoft decided to use the same symbol in IE7, avoiding terminology that may have been helpful to geeks, but utterly confusing to most web users. After all, the whole point is simplicity!

We have used this symbol on the ABB homepage for quite some time, and you will have noticed that it is becoming ubiquitous on the www. Behind the symbol is a web feed, which is automatically updated as new content becomes available. So instead of checking the ABB homepage to see if anything is new, the feed will display news and updates as they are posted on the site.

To view the content you need a reader, and the easiest to use is probably Internet Explorer 7. When you open a web page that offers a feed, the symbol above will become active in your browser tool bar. One click on the symbol shows you the feed, and another click puts it into the feed reader that is built into IE7. But most powerful I have seen so far is Netvibes. Take a look and try it out!

These web feeds have other uses as well, as you can embed a feed in a web page, so that it will be automatically updated with content without any intervention from the owner of the page where it is displayed. This will have wide ranging consequences for the web, both Internet and intranets, as focus must shifts from designing web pages to providing more valuable content.

No comments: