Incorporation into a web site or online service is one thing, but RSS feeds can be far more useful than that. Desktop readers, a category of software that can display your favorite RSS feeds directly on your desktop, are quickly gaining in popularity. In this section, we look at some examples of good desktop readers and their similarities.
The first RSS desktop reader to come to prominence was Carmen’s Headline Viewer (CHV). Its origins were shrouded in mystery for a while, but CHV was actually written by Jeff Barr—the man behind Syndic8—and named after his wife. Version 0.1 came out in April 1999, and development continues at the time of this writing. It captured the imagination of many users by giving two advantages over reading RSS feeds over the existing online portals. First, it allowed users to be offline when they read the feeds, which allowed hundreds of sources to be downloaded and perused at a user’s leisure in an era when Internet access was expensive in many countries. Second, the author considered a non-browser-based RSS vehicle to be potentially superior.
Since then, desktop readers have flourished. There are currently over 30 different examples listed on the Open Directory Project at http://www.dmoz.org. Many are free or cost very little.
The evolution of RSS desktop readers is still in its early stages, but already many common features have emerged. Future developers should take note of these, as they are rapidly growing ...