Dave Winer created the river of news concept and has been talking about it for many years. He explains why it is so significant:
Here’s a scenario. Taking a trip. The plane lands, out comes the Blackberry. Check the voicemail, check email, then… What’s next? For me it would be to check the news, find out if anything happened while I was in the air. Did a scandal break? Another terrorist attack? Any interesting Apple rumors?
But there’s a lot of navigation involved, I call it the “hunt and peck” style of news-gathering, because I feel like a chicken in a yard, looking for a seed to eat. All that navigating is too much work on my desktop, but on a mobile device, that doesn’t have a mouse, or any kind of pointing device, not even arrow keys, it’s way to much work. But, my Blackberry has this wonderful scroll wheel, which is really all you need to read the news, if you arrange the information in the right way on the screen, and that way is the River of News.
Dave goes on to explain how it works:
Take a set of RSS feeds. Read them in random order, different every time. When you spot some new stories in a feed, ones that haven’t appeared before, add them to the flow, at the top of the page. Repeat until you’ve read all the feeds. Do it again in ten minutes.
This really isn’t new, it’s a variant of how blogs work, it’s a last-in first-out approach. As Paul Kedrosky points out, it’s even older than blogs, it’s how news wires work in the old teletype days. Want to find out what’s new, go into the TTY room and watch the stories scroll in on the typewriter.
Many people have never experienced this style of news reading, but it can be fascinating, even mesmerizing, and in my humble opinion, it’s a perfect fit for the mobile devices we carry with us these days.
If we think a little about it, watching the River of News is a bit like watching TV or listening to radio with one key difference. The River of News can be customised with our feeds. Looking ahead, I believe that there will be RSS feeds everywhere from people, from cameras on street corners, from business applications. We will set up our subscriptions to these feeds based on our interests. The mobile will be the primary consumption device in emerging markets like India for feeds. This will see the emergence of the New Web.
Next Week: The Now-New-Near Web (continued)