Home Ambient News: A Low-Impact RSS Reader

Ambient News: A Low-Impact RSS Reader

Feeling information overloaded? No doubt one of the sources of stress in your life are the unread items that await you daily in your RSS reader. No matter how many times you read through your feeds, new items always appear. Perhaps it’s time to find a different way to get your news. An experimental Firefox add-on called Ambient News may be able to help.

About Ambient News

Ambient News is a new Firefox add-on written by Mozilla developer Atul Varma and is currently available as an alpha release. The add-on tracks your browsing habits, learning which sites you visit most frequently. It then pulls the headlines in from those sites and displays them for you in a beautifully fading list every time you open a new tab in Firefox. If you see something that interests you, just click the link and you’ll be taken to the web site where the headline originated. Privacy advocates, rest assured – no data is shared outside your browser.

Intelligent Agents to the Rescue!

As Michael Calore of Wired notes, the add-on is a great workaround for the biggest usability problem facing RSS. “Many people don’t know what it is or how to take advantage of it,” he writes. “The first hint that a feed exists is a funky orange or blue icon. Click on it and, in most cases, you get prompted to load another application. Sometimes, you just see ugly, raw XML output.”

But since we’re mostly web geeks here at ReadWriteWeb, we’re more enthralled with another aspect to this tool: its intelligence. As we mentioned not too long ago, cloud agents are on the rise. The term, coined by blogger Chris Arkenberg, refers to automated agents that help us better deal with the volumes of data we have to sort through every day. Although Ambient News isn’t necessary a full-on cloud agent – it doesn’t actually work in the cloud – it can still certainly be considered an agent, especially since it helps us sort through a barrage of information in a new way.

Other Alternatives

Ambient News is not the only alternative to the traditional RSS Reader. Over the past year at ReadWriteWeb, we’ve also made mention of other alternative news readers likeFeedly, which puts a magazine-style interface on top of Google Reader. Another popular RSS reader is Snackr, an Adobe AIR app that scrolls headlines across your screen like a news ticker. Then there is, of course, FriendFeed, a lifestreaming application that’s quickly becoming an alternative way to share information among the early adopter set.

Alternative RSS readers aren’t for everyone, though – journalists, bloggers, researchers, and the like may still need to use a jam-packed feed reader in order to seek out the elusive info they seek on a regular basis. But for those of you who are more casual web surfers and blog readers, alternative RSS readers are a less stressful way to get your news without the news getting to you.

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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