RSS will NEVER go mainstream

Brian Clark at Copyblogger has a great post where he asks the question, “Will RSS Ever Go Mainstream?” He goes on to say…

Over two years later, email is still very much alive… But the public at large either doesn’t care about RSS, or doesn’t know they’re using it (a la My Yahoo, etc).

So, I’ll say it… RSS will NEVER go mainstream.

Try explaining RSS or news feeds to someone outside of the tech field.  Yeah, it’s not going to happen.  Yet, RSS has become the defacto standard of every Web site on the planet.

The RSS feed is the data.  It is the content which people enjoy but it’s not a format which makes sense to anyone.

This is part of the reason why I got into widgets.  The face of the RSS feed is the widget.  In the next 2 years, every Web site, every piece of Web content, and every piece of online functionality will be broken apart into useful components (or widgets) that users can take and do what they want with.

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8 thoughts on “RSS will NEVER go mainstream”

  1. I was just reading that article today too going WTF!

    I agree it is really frustrating trying to explain why RSS is important to anyone who isn’t into tech or a blogger. But most people are ingesting content via RSS in some way and don’t even realize it even when you explain it.

    My gf who is pretty blog savvy wasn’t familiar with the term RSS one night after I came home ranting about a debate I had with someone about RSS being a necessity. But then once I explained and was like “picture every live journal blog on your friends list. It takes you 2 hours to get through your friends page. Picture each of their blogs just a subject line and short description. Now add to that every site you go to for news, videos, science etc in the same format and how long it takes you to hit all those sites? Picture them all in one spot in subject format with short descripts how much faster you can skim content and consume it? You know that orange button every blog has?”

    She then say’s “OH is that how I read all those interesting articles? Did you put them there? I thought they just showed up!”

    So she was using RSS and didn’t know it but knew the icon and format as soon as I described it.

  2. I think RSS will definitely become mainstream for many professions, because it is the most effective way to handle the necessity of keeping on top of a large load of professional reading. But many professions do not yet have the ability to access all of their professional reading through RSS – either the content (like journals) are not digitized, don’t have RSS, are protected content, etc. So RSS is not yet able to be a solution for many professionals, but I think it will become standard for many professions once all of the content they need to read is RSS-available.

  3. OK, I’ll play the middle on this one. I agree with both Victoria, and the rest of the group thus far. Yes, RSS will never go mainstream because it’s usually this little link or orange icon (which is never explained) that is placed near the output utility functions of pages. OK, I can “Print This”, “Email This” or RSS This”. Cool, what is RSS This?

    The problem is the current model and much like Justin said, widgets are a move to a better (GUI based) model for the data. However, unless pushed by companies and websites, RSS will never take off.

    It’s all about that market push. We are being forced to go digital on our televisions in several months, why not the push for RSS?

    So yes, it will never go mainstream unless (to Victoria’s point of professionals) those professionals (i.e. – the web sites themselves) make the push. Clearspring is partially addressing that with widgets.

    What’s next I ask you?

  4. I’m starting to see more and more of my non-technical friends discovering feeds. I’ve been shocked a few times when I’ve had some of my most non-techy friends say, I’ll have to add that to my google reader. There is the flip side of those that I thought would catch on easily that still haven’t gotten it.

    People are resistant to change and while those of us that live and work in the web world find and adapt to new technologies quickly, it takes the general public a while to catch up. In another few years, even more people will know what the big orange button does.

  5. I think all the content in the world could be RSS-enabled and most people won’t take the time to copy and paste the url of a RSS feed into Google Reader. The user experience is far to clunky.

    It’d be tantamount to saying that when I want to watch CNN on my digital television, I first have to identify and grab the stream of appropriate digital packets.

    People will use feeds and apis but they will never know it.

  6. If you set up Google Reader as your default feed reader in the browser, it has a nice flow for adding RSS once clicked. I rarely, if ever, have to copy RSS strings into Google Reader. Where the user experience sucks is in the refindability.

    But I do agree with your CNN analogy. Hit the nail on the head with that one.

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