In recent times I've been pitching the concept of a digital information hub to various folks at work.  Currently people have multiple aplications for viewing and authoring messages. There are instant messengers, email clients, USENET news readers and RSS/Atom aggregators. All of these applications basically do the same thing; provide a user interface for authoring and viewing messages sent by one or more people to the user.

Currently the split has been based on what wire protocol is used to send and receive the messages. This is a fairly arbitrary distinction which means little to non-technical users. The more interesting distinction is usage patterns. For all of the aforementioned application types messages really fall into two groups; messages I definitely will  read and messages I might want to read. In Outlook, I have messages sent directly to me which I'll definitely read and messages on various discussion lists I am on [such as XML-DEV] which I might want to read if the titles seem interesting or relvant to me. In Outlook Express, there are newsgroups where I read every message and others where I skim content looking for titles that are of interest or are relevant to me. In RSS Bandit, there are feeds where I read every single post (such as Don's or Joshua's blogs) and those where I skim them looking for headlines (e.g. Blogs @ MSDN). The list goes on...

The plan I've had for RSS Bandit for a while has been to see if I can evolve it into the single application where I manage all messages sent to me. Adding NNTP support is a first step in this direction. Recently I realized that some other folks have realized the power of the digital information hub; Google.

However Google has decided to bring the mountain to Mohammed. Instead of building an application that manages messages sent via all the different protocols in a single application they've decided to expose the major classes of messages as Atom feeds. They already provide Atom feeds for weblogs hosted on Blogger. Recently they've experimented with Atom feeds for USENET groups as well as Atom feeds for your GMail account. This means instead of one application being your digital information hub, any Atom savvy client (such as RSS Bandit) can now hold this honor if you use Google as your online content provider.

This is very, very interesting. I'm beginning to really like Google.