Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

The Future of RSS

Steve Rubel launched an interesting discussion on whether RSS growth has stalled. 
As I see it, the problem is that RSS is difficult to explain in laymen’s terms and it is saddled with an ugly acronym.  To this day, people cringe at the term HTML, but they have no problem accessing a web site.

For RSS to prosper, it needs to be divorced from its techie descriptions and name.  It needs to be like email which people fundamentally understand as an electronic version of an email or letter.  Instant messaging is understood as essentially a text-based phone call.  But what is RSS?

I don’t pretend to be one to have the answers here, but as someone who spends much time in the simplistic world of politics, I can tell you without a doubt that non-tech people cannot grasp RSS.  Calling it syndicated content or anything like that doesn’t help.  We need to find a bricks-and-mortar world analogy to explain it effectively.

Perhaps it can be compared to a text pager?  (When I have new content you want to see, I page you with it.)  It’s isn’t wholly appropriate, but it starts to tell the story.  I’m sure brighter minds will have better ideas.

And we need to make the tools easy to use and feeds no-brainers.  From the people I’ve worked with to educate, I can tell you that Newsgator is the product to be emulated, which I fully expect Microsoft to do in a future version of Outlook.  Most new users don’t want to be installing new softare — and in many corporate environments they aren’t even allowed to do so.

And we need to do away with scary looking icons that say XML or RSS and have something as logical as an email update signup box that is not intimidating to newbies and isn’t product-specific like Yahoo or Newsgator buttons.

If these obstacles can be overcome, RSS will not stall.  But some marketing whiz needs to come up with a better name and subscription/reading mechanism.

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