TECH TALK: The Future of Search: MyToday

Imagine going to your very own information dashboard built out of subscriptions of RSS feeds. Let us call this portal MyToday and compare it with how we would read content in todays generation of RSS Aggregators, which we will call as MyRSSAgg. (Bloglines is an example of MyRSSAgg.)

In MyRSSAgg, each of the RSS feeds and items has the same view. It is based around RSS. Categorisation is typically done via folders much like email. As a result, the user has little or no control or the view. It is also hard to share ones subscriptions with others. This is typically done as a one-time export of the subscriptions as an OPML file, which is then imported. [An overview of OPML can be found in these two older columns 1 2.]

In MyToday, sets of RSS feeds can be clustered together and viewed independently. This is because the fundamental building block of MyToday is OPML. Allowing multiple views is important because we do not consume each of the RSS feeds in the same way. As I had written earlier: I may have maybe 20 A-List feeds feeds which I want to see with all the new items outlined somewhat like Samachar. I may then have another 100-200 B-List feeds which I want to see on-demand or via a river of news style aggregator. Other feeds may be single-item feeds the closing stock market index, or the cricket scores, or the weather. In addition, I may have subscribed to a number of tags from a multitude of different sources.

In MyToday, the user can essentially associate views with a set of subscriptions, defined as an OPML file. Each OPML file is a collection of other OPML files (transclusion) and RSS feeds. What transclusion does is to allow dynamic inclusion of RSS feeds. For example, I may have a MyToday page built around India. If you want to construct your own India page, you can transclude my MyToday India OPML and add to it your own RSS feeds. This way, whenever I make a change to my OPML, it is automatically reflected in your OPML also. On the other hand, if I had done an export and you had done an import, future changes would not get reflected. Transclusion enables users to identify experts in specific categories and use their OPMLs as building blocks for their own views.

Along with the OPMLs, there will need to be a Page Description Language (PDL), somewhat along the lines of HTML. This will be used to define how the OPMLs are laid out. There can be multiple predefined views which the users can chose from or they can construct their own. So, A-list blogs may be viewed in their expanded forms, B-list blogs could be viewed in a river flow or as a list of blogs (with a number indicating the number of new items). Some RSS feeds could be single-item feeds, while others could be viewed like bookmarks. This way, users can also define views for the subscriptions they have for viewing on a PC and on mobile devices.

Tomorrow: The Wider View

TECH TALK The Future of Search+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.