This is a small thought I had for years, and that I eventually posted a few years back on Mozilla Ideas, which unfortunately got taken offline. It seems that this place could be right to rewrite and share it on 🙂
When people like a website, a blog, or a news source, they typically might want to keep updated with the latest posts there.
Currently, there are three approaches to do that.
Either you remember to go on the website once in a while to see what’s been posted recently.
Either you find the social media profiles of the media and follow them there.
Either you know about RSS/Atom feeds, you get a feed reader app, service or add-on, and you add the feed there.
The last one is by far the most practical and reliable. But it’s also extremely hard to discover if you don’t know about it, sounds very technical, and requires some research and setting up to get started.
The idea is to bring back to Firefox an interface to interact with feeds, but in a very minimal, simple, non-technical and well-integrated way. In fact, it does not even say “feed”.
The main interface element is a ”Subscribe” button (it could also be called “Follow” or “Watch” or “Stay updated” or anything relevant). The button appears in the address bar on any site that have a feed. Much like the old RSS button, but without an obscure icon and with a clear word instead. Something discoverable that anyone might be interested to click on if they like the currently opened website.
Then, on the browser home page or new tab page, the latest posts from all the websites you subscribe to would resurface. This invite you to visit the places again, and reminds you that the feature exists.
Again, quick mock-up:
Now, this lead to a new in-browser page, which presents you with all the latest posts from all your subscriptions, in reverse chronological order. Your subscriptions are also synced with Firefox Sync.
This interface should be kept simple: it’s not a fully fledged feed reader, simply a page to be kept up to date. Clicking an entry leads you to the original post on the website itself, not to a reader view. Though with some under-the-hood cleverness, image- and video-centric posts could have their media displayed in full, and there could also be some Pocket integration to quickly mark an entry as “read it later”.
But it all has to stay very simple and useful for the majority. Savvy users who know about feeds and have advanced needs can continue to use their favourite reader.
That’s it. This would effectively bring back feeds to Firefox in the simplest way possible, and introduce many people to the concept of subscribing to websites locally and independently from any social platform.
And that last point is important. Too often people are dependant from commercial and less-than-ethical social media companies to follow the things they care about. And the things they care about are dependant on the whims of the social media companies’ algorithms and business model to actually show, or not, their content to their followers.
If people can easily follow everything right in their browser, without installing add-ons, without having to learn about RSS/Atom and setting-up some feed reader, it brings back independence for all actors. And this to me sounds in line with Mozilla’s mission to support the open web.
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