Grazr

Grazr 1.0 blasts off into the future of RSS

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Grazr, the mini OPML browser that puts mortal widgets to shame, just launched version 1.0. The Grazr team is led by founder Michael Kowalchik and Adam Green – who as CTO at Andover.net, the parent of Slashdot and many other sites, took the company to its IPO. What are they up to today? Something very forward looking. I really like Grazr and I think the company’s plan for the future is very smart.

Grazr is a service that displays OPML files (outlines most commonly made of bundled RSS feeds) in an easily read format that you can interact with inside the Grazr box. It’s a joy to use; flip through the embedded Grazr display on this page by clicking on title links and using the left sidebar or arrow keys to go back up a level in the outline. It’s literally a way to graze dyanmic information nested in outline form.

We’ve created and displayed here an OPML file that highlights blog posts, photos and video about the history of Grazr. You can read the blog posts, view the photos and play video and podcasts inside the Grazr display. This could display any OPML file, of course, and I hope you can use your imagination to visualize any number of uses.

The best thing about the service is that it takes no programming knowledge to use; it makes OPML usable by anyone. Building an OPML file may become as common a practice for many people as writing a blog post is today. Grazr isn’t a mini feed reader, it’s a tool for displaying dynamic information in outline form on any web page.

New features in the 1.0 version just released include the following:

  • The same type of viral “get your own copy” popularized by online video sites like YouTube. Grazr’s sharing feature lets users easily customize their own displays and modifies the code snippet for placement in many blogging platforms. Adam tells me that ajax start pages will be the next target for the sharing feature.
  • Three pane view. There are now several different ways that files can be interacted with inside Grazr, the three pane view, a slider and the traditional single pane option.
  • Autodiscovery and feed preview. There’s now a URL window inside Grazr where you can enter any URL. If it’s an RSS or OPML URL you’ll be able to see a live preview of the items in the feeds in your display. If it’s an URL for a webpage that offers feeds, you’ll see a list of all the feeds offered by that page and a preview of them.
  • Keyboard controls now let you move around from one level to another.

I’ve been excited about Grazr ever since I first saw it in alpha. I’ve used it in many different circumstances and find it invaluable as a very pleasing way to display the living information inside OPML files. The future of Grazr is even more exciting.

Adam Green told me that the Grazr team expects that in around 2008, RSS will be so widespread that businesses will be desperate to find a way to make their feeds usable. The New York Times RSS page is already absurdly overwhelming. Place that page in a Grazr box and you can have it neatly organized with folders for categories, containing a list of each feed in that category, which in turn can be previewed in real time before users subscribe.

The company also envisions the service as a way to make mashups easier than ever to create. If you can create the data end of a mashup, Grazr will take care of the display.

Green told me that the company has enough money to last through next spring or summer; they’ll go back to their angel investors in Winter and raise some more if they need to. Then they’ll be ready when the web has wrapped it’s collective mind around this sort of service as far more than a widget for sticking on MySpace. At that time they may monetize co-branding, enterprise Grazr servers behind the firewall, or still other options that will solidify in time.

I think this is a company with a great chance of playing a very important roll in the future of the web. As Green said to me today, if HTML was the architecture of Web 1.0, RSS is the architecture of Web 2.0. I couldn’t agree more and I can’t wait to see what this service that was once a little widget grows up to be.

See also BittyBrowser, a related service with similar funcitonality.

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