WARNING: This is a long post. Proceed with caution.
I have been absolutely overwhelmed with emails in reaction to Fred Wilson’s Post, How to Widget? In this post he asserts that the distributed media world should be powered by a single platform that revolves around feeds. Fred has since made a follow-up post entitled “Monetizing Widgets.” In this post, he clues us in to who he thinks should fill this role. Can you guess who it is?
Rather than respond to the gagillion requests piling up in my inbox, I figured I would take a crack here. Let me preface this by saying that I think Fred is a sharp guy. I enjoy his blog and think he has some interesting insights. That being said, I just can’t resist. 🙂
So here is a quick summary of his points:
1. Many leading widget solutions don’t support a feed-based architecture.
2. Widget syndication systems must be built on top of a feed-architecture.
3. There should be a single platform for all media syndication.
4. Feedburner is moving into widgets, so everyone should give up.
Many leading widget solutions don’t support a feed-based architecture.
What does that mean? Feed-based architecture? Well, since I don’t really know, let’s talk about RSS for a bit. First off, most media companies we talk to say only 2-3% of users actually subscribe to their RSS feeds. And this is after RSS has been pushed for over 8 years. From a development perspective, RSS simply does not make sense as the de facto RPC (remote procedure call) for distributed media. Why? The format is optimized for read access and for news stories. Perhaps most importantly, most widgets are XML-driven applications. The Clearspring-powered widgets for Time, CBS, NBA, NBCU and more are driven by XML. So how do widgets not support feeds?
Widget syndication systems must be built on top of a feed-architecture.
Well let’s assume that feed-architecture means RSS. Tell Google, MSFT, and Yahoo that XML-RPC, SOAP, and all the REST (chuckle) need to be phased out because the world “must support a feed-based architecture.” Call developers and ask what they think of the only programmatic mechanism to access data being RSS. I doubt that they would be comfortable with that.
There should be a single platform for all media syndication
That would be nice. And, there probably will be a couple platforms that companies use to syndicate various types of content. However, I am pretty sure that you can become a pretty big content syndicator/distributor without having a core-competency in feed syndication. Ever heard of a company called YouTube? I think they did just fine, don’t you?
And this leads us to…
Feedburner is moving into widgets, so what’s the point?
I get that he needs to pitch his own investment. That’s cool. In fact, I will help him. I L-O-V-E Feedburner. I use it. Furthermore, they have a great team. But just because they are good at RSS syndication, it does not mean that they are just going to magically take over the widget space. We have spoken with the CTO of Feedburner. Eric saw an early version of our platform. Fred can ask him how the technology requirements for application syndication/distribution are different than those required for RSS syndication.
Anyway, that and $1.25 will buy you a cup of coffee. I hope you enjoyed our show.