In the latest Dreamwidth news post, it was asked how people would feel about using NNTP to access Dreamwidth. NNTP itself is a very old protocol from before the Web (although it can use HTML for its posts thanks to various features implemented later in some newsreaders), and as such, a lot of people are wondering why Dreamwidth users would be interested in using such old technology.
Let me phrase the question another way. How would you feel if you could have a client for DW that not only allowed you to post, but allowed you to read posts and comments using an interface much like a threaded email client? How about if that client kept track of the posts/comments you read, and alerted you when there were new comments to read?
( A newsreader can do all that and more. (Includes screenshot!) )
Now, I want to talk a little about the differences between this proposed NNTP server and 'normal' NNTP servers. One thing that will catch out many people not used to NNTP will be the notion of 'subscribed' groups. With newsreaders, 'subscribing' to a group is something that only takes place on your computer. Newsreaders will then ask the server for the contents of your subscribed groups, one by one; the server doesn't know which groups you're 'subscribed' to.
Secondly, while normal news servers will give you a list of all the groups on the server, with the Dreamwidth version will only show you the journals, communities, and feeds in your circle. If you want to add something to the list, you'll need to go and add them to your circle via the web interface.
When you first connect to the server and download the list, your newsreader will show you that you do not 'subscribe' to any of them. You would have to go to view the list of 'all' groups (really just the list of accounts in your circle) and then 'subscribe' to the ones you want to keep up with.
In the proposed implementation, the "group names" used for accounts will look something like "dreamwidth.personal.sophie" or "dreamwidth.community.dw_news".
Hopefully this helps you to understand how this might affect you! If anybody has any questions about how a newsreader works, I'll do my best to answer them. Also, nobody will *have* to use this, of course - it'd be there if you wanted to, but nothing is changing elsewhere. :)
[edited 2011-03-27 to correct a typo.]