RSS hasn’t lived up to its promise. What will it take?
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I had lunch the other day with a good friend and our conversation turned to
RSS. He indicated that he’d finally started to follow a few feeds in IE7, but
that feeds weren’t organized in the way he wanted to see them or didn’t contain
what he was looking for, so he found himself often returning to more
traditional web and off-line sources of information.
It dawned on me that RSS is nowhere near the mass-market penetration that
was predicted a just a couple of years ago. “Real” people not only don’t know
what RSS is, they don’t care. For them it represents yet another tool and yet
another firehose of information on top of their email, the web and instant
So if “real” people aren’t using RSS, why is it that it seems like every
other website has one of a dozen different RSS related icons? Why is RSS
Because geeks are using it.
With one exception RSS is still a leading edge technology. You and I, we’re
using RSS readers right and left. We’re not afraid to install another tool, and
we’re using it as an alternative to those other content delivery mechanisms to
organize our lives a little.
Perhaps a greater use of RSS is in the background. Websites are using it as
a content delivery mechanism for Search Engine Optimization, for update
notification to various directories and aggregation services, and even as a
mechanism to drive old-style email notification.
But it’s not yet a means to get to the general internet public.
With one exception. Podcasting.
Built on RSS, real people “get” podcasting. And yes, while many install an
additional download tool, it’s really the inclusion of podcasts in an existing
and popular tool, iTunes, that has really allowed podcasting to go
And therein, I think, lies the future of RSS. When it truly adds features or
benefits that can’t easily be gotten elsewhere, when it becomes integrated with
existing tools, such as IE7 or Windows itself, when it truly becomes about the
content and not the tools, then there’s hope for “mainstreaming” RSS.
Until then, it’ll be difficult to get RSS into the hands of the average
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