There are a number of popular offline aggregators available. By 'offline' I mean that these aggregators can be used while not connected to the Internet. For example, my aggregator of choice is RssBandit, which is an offline aggregator. There's also the likes of FeedDemon, SharpReader, and a whole slew of other choices. But what does the future hold for such offline aggregators?
The future of aggregators, in my opinion, are those that are either online - My Yahoo!, BlogLines, Start.com, Google's personalized homepage, Findory, Rojo, and so on - or are part of the experience of existing 'everyman' applications (i.e., email or web browsing) and, preferrably, are preinstalled with the software. The online aggregators seem to make a lot more sense, having a number of advantages of their offline kin:
- Not bound to a particular computer - I can be at home, at the office, or on vacation - my subscriptions travel with me.
- Can utilize the 'social network' - services like Findory make it easy for me to get recommended news and blog items based on my clickthroughs. Services like del.icio.us allow me to share my online habits/sites/subscriptions with others with like interests. I can see what the most popular feeds are, or explore the subscriptions of those whose interests match mine.
- Easier to 'install' and 'uninstall' - want to install My Yahoo! on your computer? Fire up the ol' browser and enter http://my.yahoo.com - couldn't be easier. And uninstalling's as easy as not visiting the site again.
- No resource consumption - doesn't matter if I subscribe to one feed or a hundred - the disk space and bandwidth consumed on my computer stay constant when using an online service.
Of course the major disadvantage for online aggregators is that they require the user to be online. While broadband is becoming more ubiquitous, it's not universal, so those who can only get online in bursts, will, obviously, enjoy offline aggregators, as they can download the content while online and the peruse offline. (Similar to the benefits of USENET over online forums.) But these third-party aggregators are going to be crowded out of the marketplace once this feature becomes standard in email/news clients. When Outlook Express makes it a cinch to subscribe to RSS feeds and view the feeds offline, what point is there for SharpReader or any other offline reader?
Granted, these third-party apps can provide new features with a much quicker release schedule than Microsoft or any other large software company, but who's going to use them other than just a fringe population of super-geeks? I like RssBandit. I still use RssBandit. But I have a hard time seeing RssBandit (or any other offline aggregators) having much relevance in the aggregator space in the near future. I'm honestly close to just switching over permanently to online aggregators.
Am I mistaken here? There are some applications that are better suited for the web, some that are better suited for the desktop, and some that have their place both on the web and on the desktop. I think the only place aggregators have on the desktop is for offline access, and I don't see space for offline players outside of, perhaps, an offering from Microsoft and an offering from one other competitor. I mean, how many people do you know that don't use a Microsoft product for offline email access? I wish the best for today's third-party aggregators, but can't see many (if any) of them having any sort of non-trivial install base a few years out.