About two weeks ago, Greg Reinacker wrote about NewsGator's past, present and future in two blog posts entitled NewsGator platform roadmap - Part I (a look back) and NewsGator platform roadmap - Part II (a look forward). The blog posts are a good look at the achievements of a company that has gone from a one-man shop building an RSS reading plugin for Outlook into being the dominant syndication platform company on almost any platform from Windows & Mac to the Web & mobile phones. If you are interested in XML syndication, then Greg's posts are bookmark-worthy since they describe the future plans of a company that probably has the best minds building RSS/Atom applications working there today. Below are some excerpts from his posts in my areas of interest

NewsGator Online

As I said 16 months ago, the proposed feature list is long and distinguished - and it still is.  There is so much to do here...some of the short-term planned additions range from more interactive feed discovery mechanisms (based on the larger community of users and their subscriptions), to completely different user interface paradigms (where a user could potentially select from different options, each catering to a different kind of user).

A larger initiative is around the whole paradigm. Techies aside, users don't want to think about feeds, and subscriptions, and searching for content...Given all that, we're really rethinking the way we present information to the user, and the way users discover new information.  We're designing ways for people to participate in a larger community if they wish, and get more value out of the content they consume, at the point they discover it.  While we all have our own set of feeds, and we all participate to some extent in the larger ecosystem, there is a lot of potential in linking people with similar interests to each other.  Some users will continue to use our system as they always have - and others will use it in completely different ways.  We're testing a couple of approaches on this right now - I think it's truly a game-changer.

NewsGator Inbox, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire

As I mentioned before, the enthusiasm around these products has continued to grow - people obviously see the value in a rich, synchronized, offline-capable user experience for consuming content.  Moving forward, online integration will get tighter, and more complete - ranging from the low hanging fruit like FeedDemon "News Bins" becoming Clippings (and thus synchronize with the entire platform), to more involved features like analytics-related features (recommendations, interest-based surfacing, etc.) and community-related features.
NewsGator core platform

This is the heart of our entire product line (with the exception of NewsGator Enterprise Server).  Moving forward, we're investing a lot in the platform.  We're building out more support for deep analytics (which we can use to deliver different kinds of user experience), and building out a much deeper metadata engine (which means if a client retrieves content from our system, they'll get much richer data than they otherwise would).  We'll have other ways to "slice" our data to get what you need, without having to subscribe to hundreds of feeds.

The API has been very successful, and we process millions of API calls per day from client applications, web services, and private label clients.  This traffic actually makes up a large percentage of our overall system traffic - which I think is a testament to the popularity and utility of the API.  Moving forward here, we're obviously very committed to the API story, and we'll continue to enhance it as we add platform capabilities.

There's lots of good stuff here. The first thing that pops out at me is that while a bunch of startups these days tend to proclaim the death of desktop software, NewsGator is actually seeing the best of both worlds and improving the quality of the desktop experience by harnessing a Web-based platform. It's not Web-based software replacing desktop software, it's desktop software becoming better by working in tandem with APIs and applications on the Web. When Ray Ozzie talks about "live software", NewsGator is the company that leaps most readily to my mind.

I like the idea of making discovery of new content more of a social experience. It'd be interesting to see what would happen if NewsGator Online had a del.icio.us-inspired interface for browsing and subscribing to people's feeds. I notice that Gordon Weakliem who works on the NewsGator API recently wrote a post entitled Needles in Haystacks where he talks about serendipitous discovery of new websites by browsing bookmarks of people with similar interests to him in del.icio.us. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before NewsGator adds these features to their platform.

I also like the idea of exposing richer metadata in the NewsGator API especially if it relates to the social features that they plan to unveil in the next couple of months. Unfortunately, I've never been able to get the NewsGator API to work quite right with RSS Bandit but I'll be revisiting that code later in the summer.


Sunday, July 9, 2006 8:15:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare, Nick Bradbury and I had a conversation about the "death of desktop software" last week... we both agreed w/ your notion that desktop apps just gets better by leveraging API's and the Web.

Nick pointed me to one of his previous posts which is worth checking out if you haven't already: http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2005/10/web_201_its_a_m.html

Monday, July 10, 2006 12:35:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree with the notion about desktop software integrated with the web being part of the non-death of desktop, but Nick and the NewsGator folks are an example of people who don't understand the dynamics of web connectivity plunging ahead with a hair-brained plan (i.e the API debacle) -- Nick and other bloggers going off about how they can update 100 feeds in seconds, and then bam, it goes down and they get shut off and have to scramble to handle what should have been a totally expected situation. Any good white board discussion should have told them to design it without requiring you to register your feeds or update from there. Dare, sometimes it just seems that all these web mash-up ideas you promote just show a lack of comprehension. On the other hand it sounds like you are setting yourself up for a cushy evangelist job at NewsGator when you leave Microsoft, so best of luck.
Monday, July 10, 2006 2:47:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The original design of how their desktop clients used the NewsGator API was one I criticized both in my blog and when I saw Greg Reinacker in person. They had a good idea but a bad implementation, which I wrote about in http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/PermaLink.aspx?guid=0fa916f1-4081-46a0-9020-e3fbc488caac and http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/PermaLink.aspx?guid=1da20ddb-e88d-4cf9-8171-bf75bdbd021c

In general, there is still a lot of inexperience and fumbling around with regards to building Web services both with the 'web 2.0' crowd and the SOA folks. I wouldn't just single NewsGator out here.
Monday, July 10, 2006 8:48:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Oops, thanks for the links. You did lay out your frustrations ahead of time although sort of humbly pulling your punches. Really you must be commended for being so on top of all this stuff all the time. But the point remains that the connectivity assumption underlying a lot of webservice ideas is fundamentally flawed, and you missed that point in your criticism of their design. New applications need to be designed with the realities of the web in mind. Google Earth is an awe-inspiring example of an Internet enhanced desktop application. NewsGator is like a bunch of self-important VB programmers.And your terminally bad blog page format (currently with broken icon image links for me at least) is a case in point. :)

The strength of RSS is that it is simply an XML document found at a URI, available as long as the Internet constellations are aligned (both client and server are healthy and connected). People who lose track of that will never produce anything awe-inspiring.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006 8:26:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I can't even fathom using a web-based news reader for more than the occasional instance that I'm away from my computer.

I would sort of agree with Ben, tho, that the integration of web APIs into client software has been rough. I've found the FeedDemon synching to NewsGator unusable. It seems to me that IMAP (and to a much lesser extent, POP) provides a fairly good model here.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006 7:16:16 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think integration with Web API's into the client service is not that great.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 4:55:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Attensa is a company whose software you should consider if you’re interested in integration between a desktop/online software user experience. We agree with the notion that the average user wants to get relevant content quickly without thinking of how their technology is working. We just opeded a public beta for Attensa for Outlook 1.5 which uses our AttentionStream™ technology to continuously analyze how RSS feeds and articles are read and processed by the user, including the time and frequency that feeds are accessed and articles read, deleted and ignored, allowing RSS articles to be displayed in a prioritized list based on the likelihood that they will be of interest. Integration with our free online RSS reader and our mobile to the desktop application AttentionStream synchronization all articles are up to date regardless of where they are accessed. Attensa for Outlook can also search eighteen search engines simultaneously for to continuously update relevant content. A little known (but important fact) is that Newsgator only provides search functions through their backend, rather than the web at large. Attensa utilizes social bookmarking features by providing a tagging function that synchronizes with a del.icio.us account. Our product’s integration between the information-searching and social networking capabilities of the web allow for a more expansive yet intelligent RSS reader. Give the beta a try. We’re interested in your feedback.

Chris Chamness
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