I have a simple, unscientific test for determining if a web service or product has crossed over into the mainstream: I ask my friends and family — most of whom are not very geeky and generally represent average technology users, in my opinion — if they’re using the service. If they are, then its mainstream. If they’ve at least heard of it, then the service is heading toward the mainstream. Facebook is mainstream. Gmail is mainstream. Twitter is headed in that direction. RSS though, according to my test, is not.
New data that TechCrunch released today, however, suggests that RSS might actually be headed toward the mainstream. TechCrunch, which is one of the most widely read blogs on the Internet, has about 1.4 million RSS subscribers. Two years ago, when that number was much smaller, Firefox, Bloglines, and Newsgator were the three most used RSS readers. Now, though, 38% of TechCrunch readers user Outlook to access the feed — making it the most popular RSS reader for the blog by a wide margin. Google Reader was next, followed by Newsgator and BlogRovR.
That could suggest that RSS is starting to go mainstream, since Outlook is the email client used by a large number of mainstream web users. However, that’s just one blog’s readership. At SitePoint, we’re not seeing that same trend repeated with our admittedly smaller RSS readership. Google Reader is still far and away the most popular RSS reader among SitePoint readers, according to our feed stats, followed by Firefox and Bloglines.
So it could be that TechCrunch has just gained a larger following among corporate users over the past two years, who access the blog at work where Outlook is their only option. Whereas SitePoint tends to attract more freelancers and contract workers who have freedom over what software they use.
Either way, we’d love to here what RSS reader you use, and what readers people are using to access your feed (if you have a blog). Let us know in the comments below and vote in our poll.