I’m a big fan of RSS feeds. Not only do they allow me to quickly browse through the latest content from multiple sites at once, but to do so within a single interface. Every site has its own design, and switching from one to another can be jarring at times.
If I find something good in the RSS feed, I’ll open the full article up in a browser, but I don’t want to have to navigate through the sea of nonsense on each site to find the gems I really care about. For that reason, RSS readers are something I take advantage of quite often. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t check Flipboard or my desktop RSS reader to see if there is something I may have missed in the news cycle.
Microsoft has taken a bold approach in support of the RSS movement with a Windows 8 Metro app simply called “News.” This app searches for active RSS feeds on a given site and gives you the opportunity to subscribe to them, making them viewable from within News on the Metro interface.
This support of RSS baked right in to the operating system is a very big step for Microsoft. With the majority of the consumer market still on Windows, could the Windows 8 RSS Reader change the way we experience news?
What Does the News App Do?
News is, simply put, an RSS reader. Unlike many readers currently offered by third-party developers, this one leverages the Metro UI to give users an easy (and intuitive) way to browse through news content. You can easily subscribe to some of the more popular feeds on a variety of subjects from the main menu, and each subject is color coded to make it easier to determine a story (or source’s) common news genre.
Once you click on an article, you’re taken to a big full-screen white page with easy-to-read text that gives you that article’s content as made available via RSS. Some sites offer the full article in RSS, while others just give you a snippet, hoping you’ll click the link to the full post if you like the first paragraph. In any case, the link to the original post is available to the user by clicking the title of the article.
This works for podcasts, sort of. While it doesn’t (at the current moment) have a built-in music or video player, it does send you to your browser to download the podcasts as you click on them, making it a pretty lame podcast aggregator.
What makes it interesting is the idea that this feature will also be available to tablet and touchscreen users of Windows 8. Keep in mind that Microsoft is going for an all-in-one model with Windows 8, so one feature that may be all right on the desktop might very well be a knock out of the park on a mobile platform.
Jordan, a member of the LockerGnome community, stated: “It’s good…” He continued, “a lot more stable than I thought. Cool design with the Metro UI, but annoying for traditional Windows users.”
My own experiences with the News app are similar. This would be an annoying experience for users who aren’t fans of the Metro interface, and appreciate a more traditional UI. News is built on Metro, and as such has the same trademark UI that makes it a natural part of the Windows 8 experience. The downside is that Windows 8 and Metro are so dramatically different than previous versions of Windows that it will take some getting used to.
Dónal Fiachra Mac Fhionnlaoch was cautiously optimistic, “I liked it, but you have to get used to the new remapping of the control panel and your way of accessing stuff because there isn’t a normal start menu.”
Will It Change the Way You Read the News?
Just as Internet Explorer dominates the browser market as it’s included with each copy of Windows, there is no question that the News app will pick up at least some traction at launch. Imagine if you sold foam hands outside the gates of a stadium right before the game. You might sell quite a few, and people will likely be seen in the crowd with them from time to time. Take that same foam hand and place it on every chair prior to the arrival of the fans, and you’ve got a product that will undoubtedly be seen and used by the masses.
The same can be said for included software, and Windows 8 is expected to have quite a few of these little gems pre-installed with Metro. Weather, News, Stocks, and several social apps will undoubtedly be defining features of the OS for many of its users.
Remember, many users don’t do much more than run Internet Explorer, and perhaps iTunes. These are the consumers who will determine the trends for the masses, and they could very well pick up on the News app and run with it.
As for me, I really enjoy this new feature. While trying out the Developer Preview, I’ve found myself enjoying adding sites and configuring various settings in the News app, making it a useful and aesthetically pleasing part of my early-morning routine. Now, instead of using Flipboard to check the news, I’m depending more and more on Windows 8. To my surprise, I don’t really miss Flipboard at all.
What about you? Have you given the News app a test run? You can try the Windows 8 Developer Preview for yourself right now by heading over to Microsoft and downloading the .ISO file.