I’m excited about NewsBlur. It’s an RSS/Atom reader that’s web-based, open source, and integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and a handful more popular social networks.

I find the interface kind of ugly and clunky and not intuitive. I found my way around quickly enough, but I think a non-computer-geek would be at a loss, thinking, what is this thing and what am I supposed to do with it?? The three-pane design makes it look like a desktop application, which I think people would find confusing. And the fact that every time you click on anything there’s a JQuery fadeIn() – why????? Aaargh. It basically simulates a slow Internet connection.

But those are quibbles, and easily fixed. I’m excited about this thing, and looking forward to playing with it more.


What is the Federated Social Web, though?

I was talking to a friend about the federated social web recently, and I realized that my descriptions of it were really vague. After thinking about it, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good, concrete definition: a website or service is part of the federated social web if it’s open-source and provides an RSS or Atom feed that’s relatively easy to find.

Of course this isn’t what most people mean by it; most people for whom ‘federated social web’ means anything at all, would probably think of XMPP or pubsubbub or podservers or freedom boxes or what-have-you. Those are all technologies that might make up the federated social web in the future. But for right now, I reckon any service that doesn’t provide an RSS or Atom feed is either very immature, or else doesn’t really want to be federated.

The nice thing about this definition is that it’s easy to say what websites are part of the federated social web. WordPress, Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and / StatusNet are. Facebook definitely isn’t, Twitter pretends to be, a little bit, sometimes, but isn’t really. Tumblr lets you have RSS feeds which is nice, but the fact that it’s closed-source means you live in fear that those feeds may one day be taken away without warning, which is what happened with Twitter.

By this definition, Buddycloud isn’t on the federated social web yet, although they’ve done some good work in laying the groundwork. Diaspora passes the test, although the atom feeds are not exactly easy to find. Feed addresses look something like this: