Last week, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7, Release Candidate 1 for Windows XP. The browser appears to be on schedule for a Q4 release, unless a major problem is uncovered. There are many enhancements to the software, but my interest in IE7 lies with its RSS support and how IE7 acts as the delivery vehicle for Microsoft’s Windows RSS Platform. For many enterprise users, the upgrade to IE7 will be their first exposure to a publish-and-subscribe model based on XML syndication (e.g., RSS). The infrastructure that Microsoft will begin to roll out with IE7 (additional capabilities will appear in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007), has significant implications to IT strategists looking to transform communication channels, provide more flexible information delivery and help address attention management concerns of end users.
Microsoft currently has a three-pronged approach to RSS. The centerpiece of its strategy is the Windows RSS Platform (see Figure 1). The Windows RSS Platform will provide infrastructure that generalizes certain RSS functions, making them available to all desktop applications. For Microsoft, applications that will take advantage of this infrastructure include both Office Outlook 2007 and Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). The Windows RSS Platform also supports interactions a user might have with online services. For Microsoft, this will eventually include its Windows Live Mail desktop. APIs enable any RSS-based desktop service to integrate with the Windows RSS Platform. (e.g., Windows Vista Sidebar Feed Gadget).
With IE7, Microsoft will provide a lightweight-reader capability that leverages the Windows RSS Platform (see Figure 2). As enterprises upgrade desktops to IE7, the installation process will include setup of the Windows RSS Platform. Windows IE7, therefore, does little in the way of explicit RSS support. The user experience is straightforward:
1. Discovery: An RSS icon indicates that the website has feeds available.
2. Subscription: Users can click the RSS icon to preview the feed and then subscribe to it. (This preview capability is available outside Windows IE7.)
3. Management: Users can manage their Windows IE7 feeds in a new Favorites Center, which incorporates a Common Feed List.
4. Reading: A feed reading view allows users to consume feeds with a soft alert of updated feeds in the feed list pane (updates appear in bold).
5. Synchronization: Users can synchronize the feeds they subscribe to in IE7 with those stored in Office Outlook 2007.