When Newsreaders Aren’t

I clicked on a headline for an article titled Firefox news readers run the gamut. Sounded interesting; I’m not particularly happy with slrn, but I use it because there’s nothing better.

I thought it would be odd that there would be more than one newsreader, and one integrated into Firefox no less. So I was curious and clicked the link.

Surprise — it wasn’t talking about news readers at all, but rather RSS aggregators.

GRRR.

A news reader should be for *Usenet*.

Speaking of which, RSS is superflous. One could use NNTP to publish headlines and summaries anyway, and not require the development of a whole slew of software for yet another annoying protocol.

7 thoughts on “When Newsreaders Aren’t

  1. I came across the same issue… and was forced to install thunderbird. The only use I have for it is news, so I would be VERY interested in a firefox extension. I wonder how hard it would be to implement…

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  2. Wake up to 2005. Usenet is not the centre of the internet anymore. Most users of the net hardly know what Usenet is, and calling Usenet “news” is an increasingly inaccurate thing every day that passes.

    And stating that NNTP is the way to go is very much behaving like a stork, planting your head firmly into the sand..

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  3. I know that Usenet isn’t all that popular anymore, and frankly I don’t see it as a bad thing that AOL dropped it.

    OTOH, it has quite a few advantages over things such as web forums (hate those — slow, different interface on each, no possibility of offline reading) and is remarkably similar to rss.

    Don’t believe me? There are quite a few RSS/NNTP bridge projects out there.

    NNTP is pretty similar to RSS, with the added ability to post.

    Gmane.org serves up RSS feeds based on NNTP content.

    This is no earth-shattering comment.

    I am an advocate for simplicity in protocols. It’s for that reason that I prefer XML-RPC to SOAP, and in many cases, Gopher to HTTP or XML-RPC. So many times, all the “features” in the latest protocols amount to overkill and unneeded complexity.

    Think about it. To write an RSS client from scratch, you would need to:

    1. Implement a TCP client
    2. Handle all the details of HTTP, including proper URL escaping
    3. Handle the details of XML, including tag parsing, URL escaping there too, etc.

    To write an NNTP client that does the basic thing that an RSS client does, you’d need to implement a TCP client and be able to send a few lines of commands, and read a few lines back. Simpler, easier, and with just as many output options.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    And why would I want to implement an RSS client from scratch when there are so many libraries and so much software that pieced together requires very little effort to piece together a custom client of any kind (shell, gui, web) ?

    Your point is IMO moot, and a reaction to finding that others think RSS is more interesting than NNTP.

    I must say I have never had that much interest in Usenet, but I clearly see that it and its protocols had a lot to offer earlier on. Of course it is always some technologies that end up popular and some do not.

    My point is that you should live with the fact that most people do not anymore use “News” to refer to Usenet..

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    James Reply:

    So why should RSS feeds, which were originally for *web*logs, add extra complexity and implement NNTP instead of just being files on a webserver? You’re looking at it from the wrong direction – RSS is really simple for the client, not the consumer.

    Hell, let’s look at your weblog, which uses Drupal and has an aggregator. Since it’s on the web, all the HTTP, XML and url escaping stuff is there for free. Adding NNTP would require finding a client library in PHP, which is more likely to not quite work right since there’s not a great demand. Add in the fact you’ll need a NNTP server somewhere (most web hosting doesn’t include one) that allows posting to a newsgroup (propagation is so unlikely I’m not going to bother) and that port 80 is a lot more unfirewalled than port 119.

    As for the existance of RSS to NNTP, there’s also RSS to XMPP (Jabber), RSS to email etc. so that doesn’t prove NNTP is the one true news transportation protocol.

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  4. Usenet (other than moderated groups) ceased to be useful by 1995, 1996 at the latest, and the term “news” was ill-chosen from the start (and I’m an old-timer, I hacked a bit on the 2.10.3 and 2.11 versions of the B news software back in the mid-80s).

    RSS feeds are far more likely to be “news” than the vast majority of Usenet.

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  5. Just to clarify: I agree that “news” is inapprorpaite for Usenet, just as it is for RSS. I’m just saying that “newsreader” is a specific application that is not an RSS aggregator.

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