Programming
Article

RSS evokes blank stares

By Kevin Yank

(via O’Reilly Radar) Technology investment guru Bill Burnham cites a Neilsen report that found, in a survey of 1,000 blog readers, only 11% use RSS feeds to monitor blogs and nearly two-thirds don’t even know what RSS is.

What would help RSS grow? Microsoft’s much-vaunted support in the upcoming Windows Vista will certainly help, but maybe changing the name wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

  • http://www.johandahlstrom.se Johan Dahlstr

    New blog category ey? Neat.

    I know what RSS is, but to be completely honest, I don’t use it. I have yet not discovered the real reason why I should use it in a farer extent, cause whenever I want to read or get updated about/on a topic, I go to the site directly.

    Safari has a built-in RSS feature that is really neat in my opinion, but that’s still not enough for me; I don’t use it.

    I guess that when I see more stuff like the RSS-screensaver in OS X Tiger, I’ll be more interested. But for now, I can’t find enough reasons…

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    The RSS Screen Saver in OS X Tiger is quite awesome and I used it a few times just for the fun of it.

    RSS is a great technology and allows me to keep up with everything on the web. Opera has a great built in RSS reader, which I mainly use. Safari has one too, but I don’t open up Safari too much. FF has that live bookmark thing, but that’s not as good as a normal RSS reader.

    Most mega blog readers (like myself) keep up with the huge amount of blogs that they read using RSS. For a blogger to not use RSS is quite stupid, as I know most people don’t want to have to visit the site each day. Most blogging platforms also offer RSS out of the box, there isn’t a real reason not to use it.

  • patrikG

    The uptake on the RSS feeds on some of the sites I maintain is incredibly slow, even though I’ve submitted them to feedster and the like.
    Try explaining RSS to your Mom without receiving blank stares or her not seing the point of what’s actually good about them.

  • evolve

    I don’t feel changing the name of ‘RSS’ would help increase its popularity.

    In my opinion people are used to simply going to websites and reading blogs from the actual website. Using a third party application to parse RSS feeds in order to read the blogs is inconvenient.

    Firefox has a means of easily monitoring RSS feeds by subscribing to them, however I feel the implementation is poor. RSS has a little ways to go implementation wise before it will become popular, but even then it’ll be hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

  • Etnu

    The real irony about people complaining about MS “rebranding” RSS is that the term RSS is mistaken by most people as being some kind of special format in and of itself (it’s just xml). Arguing semantics is silly.

    I’m 100% confident that when the average user is being force-fed RSS through vista, just as many people will be familiar with it as are familiar with blogs, instant messaging, and email. The fact that all 3 major search portals (Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft) are moving towards building the RSS feeds into their portals will help even more. See:

    Google

    Microsoft

    For some examples. RSS everywhere.

    Essentially, everything in technology is moving towards xml. Whether that be xml in the form of XUL, XAML, XHTML, or RSS is irrelevant — all standards will be derived from it. Just get used to it.

  • http://www.rideontwo.com z0s0

    I reckon it should be renamed “RAJAX” – Someone will figure out a backronym.

  • Ned Collyer

    z0s0 before I scrolled to your post, I was thinking the exact same thing :)

  • http://www.village-eaters.com/ Darcy

    I think that finding a practical way to intregrate RSS into a person’s everyday surfing would enhance it’s use and understanding.

  • http://www.lopsica.com BerislavLopac

    Regarding the renaming of RSS feeds, I find the Microsoft’s term of “Web feeds” quite appropriate. The linked article quotes Dave Winer as stating “Like it or not Google, the format is RSS 2.0.” Well, if I look to the bottom of the Firefox window displaying this very page, I can see an “RSS” icon which when clicked on reveals a menu with three “Subscribe to:” options: RSS 2.0, RSS.92 and Atom 0.3.

    In other words, all three together represent what we could call “Web feeds”; and each of them is in different format, to accomodate for various user’s reader preferences. And one of the formats is not even named “RSS”. This is like TV: we have analog, digital, cable, satellite, HDTV etc, but to the end user they are all just plain old TV.

  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    Yeah but if you change the name you can’t have fun with it like; [url=http://sourceforge.net/projects/rssbandit]RSS Bandit[/url] or [url=http://www.sitepoint.com/article/get-off-your-rss]Get off your RSS[/url] ;)

  • http://www.practicalapplications.net bwarrene

    I continue to look at RSS as a tool for use with clients more than a function of the home user. Its current value is much more clear commercially as an add-in to client solutions. I.e. I see Google’s new Sidebar, which allows plug-in development, as a way for web professionals to build additional functions for clients, using RSS.

    Power users of course see its value – especially in tracking a particular topic across the web.

    You are right on target from a home user perspective. If one does not need or want to look across numerous sites for events, news and other content – it is just as simple to open a browser and head toward one’s favorite outlet.

    Perhaps if some unique application for it arises or a stronger shift from traditional print or broadcast content occurs – it could grow. I am not sure if a name change will do the trick although it may help.

  • struesda

    Since podcasts seem to be catching on (ala iTunes) – how about textcasts ? They are twin cousins afterall…

  • http://www.napathon.net/ vinyl-junkie

    I believe that there are many reasons why RSS hasn’t caught on. For one thing, it needs to be hyped a whole lot more than it is. I don’t mean that in a bad or negative way, I just mean that information needs to be made more available regarding its very practical uses for both business and home user needs (and yes, Blane, I believe that the home user can get just as much benefit from RSS as a commercial business).

    Well, you’re not going to get a whole lot of people on the bandwagon, so to speak, unless there are a lot more websites serving up content via RSS. How many forums are you aware of that have RSS feeds? OK, SitePoint has a couple of forum feeds, but I hate to say this – SitePoint could do a lot better on that score by offering more feed choices than it does. How many company websites offer employment openings via RSS? I daresay, not many. Of course, there are many more possibilities for RSS besides the ones I’ve listed.

    That brings me to my next point. The search engines seem to be lagging in offering a good way to search for feeds on various subjects. Do a Google search for the phrase “RSS feed”, and you’ll see a few feeds listed, but many will say “format not recognized” and they won’t tell you what the feed is about. Huh?! There are, to be sure, specialized search engines for this sort of thing, but the big boys like Google ought to be leading the RSS pack, in my opinion.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the coding languages of the web need to have less clunky ways of developing the code that creates the feeds. They’re getting better, but they’re still a long way from where they need to be.

    Unless and until all the things I’ve stated come together, RSS is doomed just to being a novelty of the web.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    That brings me to my next point. The search engines seem to be lagging in offering a good way to search for feeds on various subjects.

    Speak of the devil: MSN Searches RSS Deeper

  • Ann

    The uptake on the RSS feeds on some of the sites I maintain is incredibly slow, even though I’ve submitted them to feedster and the like.
    Try explaining RSS to your Mom without receiving blank stares or her not seing the point of what’s actually good about them.

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