I have been reading all of the 2007 Predictions entries that have come across my desk and one of the predictions that seems to make the lists more than any others is that RSS will make it to the mainstream. I can’t help but think how completely and utterly wrong this is. While in the past we have lauded RSS as the next great thing after email, it really is nothing more but another way to read sites. In fact, RSS has been around in one form or another for a very long time.
AP Wire Services act like RSS syndicating their content to newspapers and websites. ESPN has a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen that keeps you updated on scores and news. Have any of these revolutionized the way people go about their lives? Not really so why should RSS be any different? RSS is very useful for finding out when a site updates, but that is no different than actually going to the site itself to check on updates.
Email is completely different since it allows people to communicate with one another while RSS just acts as an asynchronous communication tool. Every major online communication breakthrough (IRC, IM, etc) succeeded because it handled communication in a many-to-many relationship. RSS on the other hand is simply a one-way 1-to-many relationship and this is what will prevent it from ever making it big and changing the lives of people.
I do think that sooner or later every technology we use that has access online will incorporate RSS into its services, but not necessarily behind a feedreader. Weather updates can be sent via RSS and nobody would care. People don’t go to sites searching for the orange feed button, they go looking for content. Besides, why site updates can be simply sent to your inbox why bother with feedreaders anyways (I’m speaking in general here since I use Google’s Reader).
As we try to push forward with the web we need to let go of the idea that every person on the web will grasp the idea of what a feed is. Instead, find ways to use feeds that don’t break the user’s experience. It doesn’t matter to them what is under the hood as long as the car moves.
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