Dave Winer is at it again. This time with an open source “browser” that can read a “river” called riverBrowser.

riverBrowser is, at its core, a set of HTML, JavaScript, CSS that can read JSONP files and output them as HTML. What can this be used for? Well, it could — potentially — replace RSS for a number of applications.

Why replace RSS? Two reasons jump out at me;

  1. RSS is a fairly bloated specification. It is a bit verbose and the file sizes for even a small blog can get relatively large quickly. JSON is, by its very nature, a bit more succinct. This would result in faster load times, easier caching, etc.
  2. RSS is typically interpreted with a server side language while JSON is native to JS. It is a small detail but an important one. To properly read an RSS file in JavaScript you’d need an entire class dedicated to churning out a JavaScript object from whatever is in the RSS file. And I can tell you, from experience, this is typically an edge-case nightmare. By using JSON you immediately have an Object to start. No parsing needing.

What can be publish a river? Twitter, blogs, news, applications — you name it. Anything with “a feed”. Creating a JSONP river file thingy should be pretty straight forward. Here is the spec.

When I get a little bit of time I’ll create a JSONP file for riverBrowser for all Barley-powered web sites. Although I love RSS I can see how rivers could replace the now-dated specification.

Update: Dave Winer says I’m wrong about “rivers” replacing RSS. Looks like I have more reading to do. I’ll update this post when I figure it out.