Feed Handling:User Interface

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The FeedView RSS pretty print extension has been checked in for Firefox 1.5. Numerous bugs have been pointed out in the feature however and the UI is not up to Firefox quality standards. All of this resulted in FeedView being backed out for 1.5 and targetted for the 2.0 release.

The main tracking bug for this feature is bug 302121.

What Is Needed

An audit and investigation of our existing RSS features and a UI that integrates them nicely.

Required Features

  • Discoverable UI for showing and bookmarking feeds
  • Ability to bookmark feed for easy use
  • Attractive presentation of feeds when viewed in the browser
  • RSS(all versions) and ATOM support

UI Design

When a page with an appropriate <link rel> tag is discovered, place this icon in the location bar:


When the icon is clicked, show a pretty print of the feed. If there is more than one *TYPE* of RSS feed, "pick the best format" and show that. If there are multiple links with the same format, assume there are multiple feeds (e.g. a blog feed vs. a comments feed) and show a menu, e.g.:

| Show News.com Feed         |
| Show Business Stories Feed |
| Show Security Stories Feed |
| Show Internet Fads Feed    |

The pretty print should be laid out like so:

| FEED TITLE                                            |
  [-] Entry Title ======================  [Expand All] 
                                          [Collapse All]
  entry text entry text entry text entry   
  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry text entry text entry  Add Live Bookmark:
  entry text entry text entry text entry  Name:
  entry text entry text entry text entry  [                ] <-- name, prefilled
  entry text entry text entry text entry  In:
  entry text entry ...                    [ Bookmarks Bar:^] <-- folder selector
                                                     ( Add )
  [-] Entry Title ======================

  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry ...

  [-] Entry Title ======================

  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry text entry text entry
  entry text entry ...

Problems With Current Implementation

With the status bar selector:

  • Not discoverable
  • No keyboard shortcut for creating a Live Bookmark
  • Shows menu even when there's only one feed, or multiple formats to the same feed
  • Defaults saving bookmark into Bookmarks list - Feeds are more constant use items, should default to saving into Bookmarks Toolbar folder
  • Defaults bookmark title to be the "title" attribute of the <link rel> tag instead of the feed title

With the pretty print

  • Excerpt length selector is useless (and flickers badly, even on capable hardware) - should just have a 'headings only' vs. 'headings+excerpts' view
  • No easy way to add a bookmark other than the non-discoverable status bar icon
  • Looks just like Safari but with different colors - does not feel firefox or mozilla-like: should engage visual design team to do a better style sheet
  • various rendering errors (escaped HTML, <a hrefs>)


  • move feed discovery icon into location bar, like the lock icon
  • make the discovery icon intelligent and automatically pick the best feed from a variety of identical-feed-different-format choices
  • make the discovery icon show the pretty print
  • make link clicks on feed urls show the pretty print
  • make the pretty print have an attractive, mozilla-like style
  • ditch the length selector and replace with headings only vs. headings+excerpts
    • maybe use an "expand" vs "collapse" metaphor here instead, so "expand all" and "collapse all" with [+] / [-] buttons next to each feed
  • add a prominent "bookmark feed" box that default bookmarks onto links toolbar with folder selector.
    • should use the feed title as the default name for the bookmark
  • fix various rendering bugs in the pretty print
  • Sage...and sage. That is the best way to manage feeds rss and atom. There should be a good style for the feed not just a box...maybe graphic layout. News preview would be good...

TBD & Open Questions

  • Should all bookmarked RSS/Atom files be treated as Live Bookmarks automatically?
  • Should we consider the possibilty that there may be multiple feed types with different contents but the same filename?
  • Have we talked about including a "what is this" type of thing on the right side next to the "Add Live Bookmark" section? IE7 does this, and I think it'd be good to make sure users know what exactly they are looking at.
  • What will happen when the location bar is hidden by the user?
  • What indication is available to notify that a page has some kind of feed(s)

User Comments

  • There's one major flaw in Live Bookmarks, and that is the lack of notifications of new content in the feed. There should be a way of notifying you that the bookmarked feeds have new (unread) content both in the toolbar, and possibly via dowload-manager-like alerts (for bookmarks that are not visible on the toolbar). --Caleb 01:43, 4 Nov 2005 (PST)
  • With the growing amount of blogs/feeds out there people end up adding lots of live feeds to their bookmarks toolbar, which reduces the amount of space for "real" bookmarks in the toolbar. Maybe (at some point in the future, or in FF3) there should be some kind of a different mechanism for managing live bookmarks/feeds/etc..? --Caleb 01:43, 4 Nov 2005 (PST)
  • Honestly, Feeds should be stored in a single localized location by default for easier management, should (as mentioned above) notify of updates, and should most definately allow for the aggregation of unread feed entries into a single list. The biggest advantage of feeds is allowing a user to access information from multiple sources in a single place. --Jeff Carlsen 10:44, 20 Nov 2005 (PST)
  • Maybe I'm missing it, but what about feeds that are already styled through XSLT? Will this completely obfuscate easy ways of creating Livemarks from them? At the very least, the Bookmarks Menu needs to be able to look at the page and see if its a feed or not, and then show the option to add a Livemark to it. Seems like the functionality will still be awfully hidden though. --Wes 10:31, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
  • Actually I find this discussion and development strange, just because Safari introduced the pretty lay-outed RSS-feeds and IE7 took this feature in, doesn't mean Firefox should do it the same way. Personally I prefer the way Opera 9 beta handles it. In Opera, RSS-feeds are opened in a complete feed reader similar to the one in Thunderbird, but within the browser. It allows also to delete and comment the feed items and gives you the choice of representing the website or the abstract. The live bookmarks could function thus as a kind of inbox.--Ludovic Janssens 09:34, 17 May 2006 (CEST)
  • Given the existence of RSS aggregator extensions (http://sage.mozdev.org/ for example) I wonder if consideration could be given to an option which disabled the updating of Live Bookmarks? Sage allows finer control over the update of feeds, and the large number of them I've accumulated do not get automatically updated on start-up, but Live Bookmarks from the Firefox side do. Currently, using dial-up, this results in about 2MB of download and sluggish peformance for the first couple of minutes of use. An option to control Firefox's treatment of Live Bookmarks would be a god-send. HamishMacEwan 14:11, 6 June 2006 (PDT)
  • I notice that if a feed item has a title and no link, Firefox doesn't show the item in in Live Bookmarks. This is a problem because sometimes the title contains the entire, very brief, content, and requiring a person to follow a link only to find there is no more information to be found is a waste of their time. Also, if the title is too large to fit, it gets an ellipsis (...) at the end and there appears to be no way to see what the full title is without following the link. charles_belov 14:31, 12 July 2006 (PDT)