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Web Intents are Great – Web Intents are Horrible

Since the very beginning, when met with an Atom or RSS feed, Google Chrome responds by rendering the XML as unformatted xml (unless your feed happens to have an XSL stylesheet like feedburner adds).  One of the earliest bugs reported to Google is that this should not be, that it would instead be more friendly to invite the user to subscribe to the feed in a feed reader (like Firefox does) or render the feed yourself (like Safari does).

In the recently released stable Chrome 19, one of the new features is that instead of displaying the XML as unformatted xml, it fires off a view web intent instead.  This may be a good first step towards making feeds friendlier to use.  Instead of seeing a page the average reader doesn’t understand, they could be shown their own apps that they’ve installed.

Searching the chrome web store for a feed reader gives you squat

Unfortunately the default does not suggest any feed reader apps, and clicking on the link to search the chrome web store for an app gives you an unfortunately inconvenient “No Results Found.”  Google really should have anticipated the release of their own new browser with a full web app for Google Reader with support for web intents, but it appears they didn’t.  In fact, there still does not appear to be an official google reader web app for chrome.

Even more annoying for me, is there doesn’t seem to be any way to just view the XML in chrome like I used to.  As a developer I’m often working on feeds for various projects.  When I’m testing these feeds, I need to be able to see the XML and the new web intents support drives me nuts.  So nuts in fact that I started looking for information on developing a webintents enabled web app just so that I could create my own app that shows me the XML.

Fortunately, I’m not the only person who finds this annoying, and even more fortunately, someone has already saved me the trouble of writing my own web intents app just so that I can see the XML.  A Developer named Mihai Parparita has created a chrome app that does exactly that!  For more details, check out his blog post on the matter.

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  • Hi, this is a bug that is being worked on right now. Well actually there are two bugs. The first is that it should list apps (2 or 3 of them that are in the store already). The second is that the picker WILL display the default ability of Chrome soon (the default ability is view-source).

    Also you will be able to set the a default handler pretty soon.

    • Fantastic news Paul, I look forward to the updates!

      As I said in the post, the web intents idea is great, let people choose an app that they want to subscribe/view the feed in (similar to firefox’s feed view but much more flexible), it just was a bit annoying that I couldn’t view the feed source easily, and that it didn’t give me an effective list of apps.

  • Hi, this is a bug that is being worked on right now. Well actually there are two bugs. The first is that it should list apps (2 or 3 of them that are in the store already). The second is that the picker WILL display the default ability of Chrome soon (the default ability is view-source).

    Also you will be able to set the a default handler pretty soon.

    • Fantastic news Paul, I look forward to the updates!

      As I said in the post, the web intents idea is great, let people choose an app that they want to subscribe/view the feed in (similar to firefox’s feed view but much more flexible), it just was a bit annoying that I couldn’t view the feed source easily, and that it didn’t give me an effective list of apps.

  • Chrissy

    Web Intents are annoying. I don’t need to see the popup box every single time I go to an XML file. Just show me the XML.

    • yeah I feel you, I wish I could disable them for XML, but at the same time, the concept of web intents is great, and for your average person, showing the feed in an app is more useful than showing the xml.

  • Chrissy

    Web Intents are annoying. I don’t need to see the popup box every single time I go to an XML file. Just show me the XML.

    • yeah I feel you, I wish I could disable them for XML, but at the same time, the concept of web intents is great, and for your average person, showing the feed in an app is more useful than showing the xml.

  • This is like something Microsoft would do.

    • I’d have to check my tech history, but I think Firefox or Safari may have done it first, rendering feeds for display, and both of them did it internally. It does make sense that Chrome gives the user the decision how to render it, there just should be an option for (just display the XML)

  • This is like something Microsoft would do.

    • I’d have to check my tech history, but I think Firefox or Safari may have done it first, rendering feeds for display, and both of them did it internally. It does make sense that Chrome gives the user the decision how to render it, there just should be an option for (just display the XML)