Pipes, Televisions, & the Future of RSS

Pipes!Some of you might have checked out the CNN article, ‘RSS stands for ‘Rarely Seen Sites.’ One of the things that struck me from this article was that:

“…only 1 in 10 people have even heard of RSS, and a mere 2 percent actually use it. That’s a pretty lousy adoption rate for a technology which dates back to 1999.”

Does that mean that RSS is a bad idea? Certainly not. What it does mean, however, is that RSS just doesn’t cut it for most users. Is that really such a shocker? Did we really expect the non-geek world to get XML? It is like asking your mom to understand how her favorite show gets transmitted to the television. She doesn’t care about the pipes that deliver the content. She just needs to know how to use the TV so she can watch her show.

RSS is a pipe. People don’t want pipes, they want televisions. So what is the television for RSS? Widgets. Widgets are the user interface components encapsulating one, or more web services – like RSS. To quote my friend Chris McGill from Gannett, “Widgets are like graphical RSS.” And, like the television, widgets offer users simple interfaces they can understand. So although RSS may not become a day-to-day tool for users, it goes without saying that we will undoubtedly be seeing more of RSS and web services.

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hoomanradfar Written by:

  • Ran

    only 1 out of 10? that really sucks.

    I wonder though if the continuous development of better RSS readers will help more users adopt this technology. My guess is that google (and co) isnt adding more features to its RSS reader because it has extra developers, but there's more potential to adopt this technology than meets the eye…

  • Hooman Radfar

    Ran, good comments. I agree that we have only hit the tip of the iceburg with RSS, and web services for that matter. There is a lot more innovation to be had in this space. I would guess that widgets will play no small role in the development of this space. Although my guess is that it will probably be in more interesting ways than we are all thinking at present.

  • Very well put article. Widgets are indeed the answer to all those that haven't caught on to RSS. I'm excited about seeing more and more developers get into the widget space…and slowly having a more "user based" widget creation phenomenon.

  • Hooman Radfar

    Marco, I am all for users creating widgets. I think that folks like RockYou and Photobucket have made some real strides in leading the personalization space. However, it goes without saying that we will see far more on the user generated front this year. There is actually a start-up called LeafLetter that is doing some neat stuff. It is a bit early, but really good vision.

  • Ed note: "1997 [sic]." The date is 1997.

  • Hooman Radfar

    Scott, good call. I grabbed the quote from CNN. I guess Guha started it off with RDF, eh? I guess they were thinking about the RSS .9+ stuff. I don't know. Either way, thanks for the factoid, sir. BTW, congrats to you as well. I guess you are feeling pretty fine. Cheers!