NetNewsWire creator Brent Simmons on unread counts:
Nick Bradbury, FeedDemon author, and I have talked many times over the years about how we’d design an RSS reader were we starting over. The first thing we always say: No unread counts!
It’s true: showing an unread count was something I regretted. It was one of many things I did to make FeedDemon work like an email client so it would seem familiar to new users. I’m sure it did make it seem familiar, but in the long run it was a mistake I never overcame.
Treating RSS like email makes it a chore to read, but customers were so used to FeedDemon working like an email client that any attempt to make it less email-like was met with resistance. So instead I came up with things like the Panic Button which were just band-aids that didn’t address the underlying problem.
Looking back, I wonder how RSS readers would’ve fared if their developers hadn’t followed the email client design. It’s partly because we did that the RSS reader (but not RSS itself) is now considered dead.