Ahoy, RSS Enterprise

Now that major corporations such as Microsoft and Cisco are starting to release bulletins as RSS feeds, every responsible enterprise needs a plan to support the reading of these things at every seat. But this is a case of the more things stay the same, the more they change.

Inventor Charles Kettering once said, "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."

That's funny, because every time I wake up in the morning, it's still the present. I may have to spend the rest of my life living in the now.

I point out this paradox because of my column last week on the RSS protocol (really simple syndication). This format makes possible "RSS feeds", periodic blurbs that your computer downloads whenever a website is updated with new writings.

Now that major corporations such as Microsoft and Cisco are starting to release bulletins as RSS feeds, every responsible enterprise needs a plan to support the reading of these things at every seat. But this is a case of the more things stay the same, the more they change. Allow me to explain.

RSS is stable and has become relatively widely accepted. The "best" way to support RSS reading, though, doesn't yet exist. I already count more than three dozen reader programs, called RSS aggregators, and those are just the ones for Windows. That's a healthy, competitive market. But no matter how good these aggregators may be, it's almost guaranteed that RSS reading will eventually become a feature of Microsoft Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and/or Windows itself. So no matter what you might roll out today, you'll probably have to do it all over again in the future.

That's no reason to live in the past, however. RSS is a time whose idea has come. You'll be much better off implementing something for your end users immediately, rather than forcing them to install multivarious solutions on their own.

Knowing that there's no one "right" way, therefore, I've picked some ready-to-roll contenders that you should definitely consider:

NewsGator. If you're committed to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, NewsGator should definitely be on your short list. It integrates with Outlook 2000, 2002 or 2003 and allows users to sort incoming RSS feeds using Outlook's own folders and tools. When they find an RSS- enabled website (perhaps using the www.syndic8.com directory), they can right-click the feed in Internet Explorer and instantly add it to their Outlook view.

AmphetaDesk. If you prefer a cross-platform solution, AmphetaDesk is an open source application that runs on Windows, Macs and Linux.

SharpReader. If Microsoft's .Net Framework is your chosen environment, SharpReader may fill the bill for you. Available at this writing is release 0.9.0.1, which features its own, Outlook-like three-pane interface and supports proxy servers and proxy authentication.

You can see a complete list of aggregators, with links to the ones above and many others here.

Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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