I stopped using internet explorer nearly 2 years ago when I discovered tabbed browsing and live bookmarks in Firefox. On the occasions when I have had to revert to IE it has been like travelling back in time. Of course IE still dominates the browser market even if that is because most people don’t make a choice so much as use the browser that is available.
However I have to say that IE7 is a massive improvement and in some ways seems to have even jumped ahead of Firefox particularly in look and feel although I still prefer the scope in Firefox to add extensions. What is important in IE7 is the fact that subscription to live feeds is built into the browser and whilst this will be lost on most people – in a few years this development will I predict have been responsible for accelerating a major transformation in the use of the web.
I have recently discovered that a significant majority of the community certainly in Hull, do not even know what a blog is let alone how to add an RSS or live feed into a feed reader, so the new IE7 feature that enables users to subscribe to feeds will take a while to become common practice. But the fact that it is there and so easy to use is going to mean that people will start subscribing to blogs without even knowing what they are doing.
In IE7 the new menu is entirely visual including the international feed icon – a small orange symbol like this:
The default for this image is greyed out – however if you visit a page that contains a live feed, such as a blog – the image turns orange and clicking on it will enable you to “subscribe.” What that means is that the page is added to a new favourites list, called Feeds, where every time the page is updated, you will be notified. This is important with web sites that provide regularly updated information such as news sites and blogs.
The problems with SPAM means that most of us are increasingly reluctant to sign up for newsletters and even if we do spam filters tend to junk them. Blogs are a far better way to manage newsletters because the recipient has full control. We decide when to read and a good feed reader enables us to quickly scan the articles in a feed to determine which are worth reading. I have about 30 subscriptions which I check every week or so. I have a file in my email folder containing over 10,000 unread newsletters that I doubt will ever be read and when I have time I will unsubscribe from them. If I want to unsubscribe from a blog of course it is as simple matter of deleting it from my list.
Over the next year or so, two things will happen – More and more people will understand the value of blogs and start writing them – More and more people will learn about subscribing to feeds and start using them. The net effect will be that newsletters will become less and less used. The growth of blogs as a primary communication tool has been waiting for this development from Microsoft. If you have not yet downloaded IE7 you can do so from www.microsoft.com although I understand that if you have automatic upgrades enabled you should soon be notified that IE7 is available, and it is certainly one upgrade I strongly recommend you download soon.