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A cool project that I never released from 10 years ago.

05 Jan 2016  |  Tags: , , , ,

While reorganizing some older files on my computer, I stumbled upon a few of my archived projects from the 2005-2006 era. Back then, I had had this idea for a site/app called “RSSoasis” that would enable people to enjoy news from around the web collectively based on their interests. It had social features that supported converged site-wide discussion and mass-voting on the most interesting/popular stories of the day.

What is “RSS? Essentially, it is a technology that enables other software to cleanly pull in news stories from virtually any other website, as well as other frequently updated content in “feed” format. My unreleased “RSSoasis” project would let users subscribe to their favorite sources/websites and then filter their stories by interest and popularity. Users could also then upvote and discuss them each day, automatically bookmarking these stories for the future by engaging with them even just briefly.

RSSoasis (screenshot)
It was a social RSS reader. Think Digg + Flickr + Del.icio.us, but with a “dark” design and different types of voting.

If I had released this and had it gained any traction, it might have presented a very distinct view of each day's news, and users wouldn't have had to manually check several different websites or posts for updates just to keep tabs on the latest stories and discussions.

Many elements of this idea remained fairly new concepts at the time of this project's initial development, with sites like Digg having just launched and begun offering the first popular online user and software-aggregated news sources. The “Web 2.0” was still evolving, and RSS remained foreign to most web users. Even today, most users still do not understand how RSS offers syndicatable content from blogs and news outlets, even with the proliferation of Twitter accounts somewhat popularizing a similar concept but in a less direct and more socially-annotated manner.

Now, there are more evolved newsreaders like Flipboard and Feedly coming very close to what almost was in full prototype with “RSSoasis” about 10 years ago, but I'm not sure if web users ever really converged enough on a single “reader” application for something like “RSSoasis” to have ever taken off. There are so many newsreader apps today, with more than a few key favorites standing out from the rest.

RSSoasis banner (promo)

While it's possible that a later “RSSoasis” iteration could have been successful following its release, I never ended up finishing it and making it public because it never felt like it could achieve a mass audience. The concept just wasn't coming together. Years later, RSS even began to fade in popularity in lieu of social media as its indirect replacement, and even Google's own newsreader “Google Reader” (once considered a standard of the industry) was shutdown.

More thumbnails I found, from the former “landing” page:

RSSoasis bookmarks (promo) RSSoasis read (promo) RSSoasis trends (promo)

Years later, Digg finally launched Digg Reader in 2013.

A lot of the best ideas start as something very small that a lot of people can understand. Developing something very complex immediately from the start can prove too intricate for some people to adopt the idea of. And yet, some of the coolest ideas just can't easily be described in a really simple way. The challenge can sometimes be to make a very complex product extremely relatable to push its adoption. (think the iPhone)

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