Imagining a Social News Browser
Last week, Netscape flashed a teaser of the upcoming version 9 of its browser. Details are few, but what is most exciting to me about this release is that they’re touting integration with their social news site. This is something that many a social news junkie has lusted after for use with sites like Digg, Reddit and Newsvine. But what exactly will it entail? How deep will the integration go? What will it take to make it a killer app for Netscape.com users? And what effect will this have on social news?
Making Functionality Portable
There is so much functionality of social news sites that would be useful to have on hand when you’re viewing other pages. Much of it could be built right into the navigation tool bar or take the form of various sidebars.
If you are viewing a URL which has been submitted to your social news site, there should be a display of how many votes the submission has received which updates each time you visit the page. As well, a vote button should be available to let you vote (or down vote) without leaving the page. And of course, a navigation button would be needed that would redirect you to the URL’s submission page and discussion thread on your social news site.
When viewing a submitted URL there is so much useful information that a social news site could make available through a browser’s sidebar. Think of a sidebar that displayed who voted on this story. In the case of Netscape, this would go hand in hand with a sidebar that displayed who sunk the story. In Digg’s case, you could also have one that displayed who blogged it. Yet another sidebar could display related articles, something Netscape can determine based on their tagging system. And while we’re at it, why not a sidebar that displayed the comment thread of the submission and allowed you to comment without leaving the page?
If the story hasn’t been submitted, then a Submit button should be available. Ideally, the submission process should not take you away from the page you are viewing. Instead, placing it in a sidebar or a dialog would provide a more seamless submission experience.
All of the browser’s RSS functionality should be combined with social news data. For instance, when you click an RSS feed in Firefox, it displays the feed in a nicely formatted list interface. I would imagine a social news browser would add voting buttons and links to submissions to any RSS items whose links had been submitted, essentially transforming each RSS item into a submission (or potential submission) on the social news site.
There are a couple of Netscape-specific features that we can expect as referenced by their teaser. One is built-in access to their Friends’ Activity Sidebar, which displays all of your friends’ latest votes, comments and submissions. Another is the Sitemail Notifier, which notifies you when you’ve received a new sitemail via Netscape’s private messaging system.
Of course it is not yet known how much of these kinds of ideas will surface in the new Netscape browser. Jason Calacanis, former General Manager of Netscape, hints that social bookmarking, voting and commenting will be built in.
Even if just that much is built in, we can expect something that will greatly improve the social news experience. It will make social bookmarking accessible to more people, which will likely result in a nice boost of registered users for Netscape upon launch. And being able to take the social bookmarking experience away from the site when you browse means that you will be able to constantly contribute, thereby extending the reach of the wisdom of the crowd.[Featured image source]
Derek van Vliet is a Toronto, Ontario native who has been programming for most of his life. In the last year he has been active in social news. He is currently a top 10-ranked user on Digg where he goes by the name BloodJunkie. He is also a professional social bookmarker (aka Navigator) on Netscape, where he goes by the name Neophile. Check his blog at http://neothoughts.com.
Thanks to extendable browsers like Firefox and Flock, we don’t actually need a browser specifically for social news, because we can create all the extensions we could ever want.
I’ve already started an extension for newsvine, though the features are limited by the lack of proper API for the time being.
Indeed, extensions can take us most of the way there, provided the API is in place.
Reddit has bookmarklets that allow voting without leaving the page. There are submission bookmarklets and extensions for all of the major social news sites.
Another excellent post Derek. I was just thinking along the same lines.
I bet the team is looking very closely at this article.