A few days ago, in a message on the rss-user list, I made a comment about the attitudes of some folks at work when it comes to RSS:

We've got some folks at Yahoo who are excited about the potential of RSS.


Rather than having to explain what it is and why we should be doing something with it, they're asking the engineers "how soon can we have this ready?" That helps make it a fun place to work.

Well, it's funny. I can't even go to heat up my lunch without bumping into someone who wants to talk about RSS. In the course of about 10 minutes today two completely unrelated folks stopped me to talk about RSS related stuff.

These are interesting times.

Posted by jzawodn at February 05, 2004 10:22 PM

Reader Comments
# TA said:

thank you for again illustrating why my group tends to drive me nuts.

You need rss.
-- We don't need rss.
Look how easy it was to build an rss feed.
-- We don't need rss.

-- Hey, they've got rss! Quick, somebody go design something for two quarters from now!


on February 5, 2004 11:59 PM
# wil said:

Can someone please give me a /pointer to a/ primer as to why RSS is such a big deal? I think I understand RSS and it's implications, I just don't understand the big deal in offering it to the average end consumer of a website. Isn't this mainly just a geek/blog thing?

on February 6, 2004 01:15 AM
# Mr Late Night said:

Wil, Google it and you'll find more than enough to keep you busy for quite sometime. The basic idea is the content finds you, instead of you going and finding the content.

on February 6, 2004 02:26 AM
# wil said:

Hi Mr late Night

I understand what RSS is, what I fail to grasp is why it's such a big deal to the average web user. I'm thinking those who do not 'blog' (like me). Why would I want RSS?

on February 6, 2004 04:12 AM
# Aristotle said:

And not only that: there's also a standard format for information on updates. So you can let tools watch the updates of dozens of sites for you (without relying on heuristics, either) without wasting any time. (At least, without wasting any time to go through the manual motions -- watching a dozen blogs sure eats up time. :) )

It's kind of like marrying usenet and the web.

on February 6, 2004 04:30 AM
# Aristotle said:

(wil slipped in another comment as I was writing mine.)

wil: anyone who reads news sites or anything that updates even occasionally can benefit from sticking an RSS feed for that site into his personal aggregator tool. The idea is that you can stay ahead of your information sources with much reduced effort, compared to manually browsing them for updates. Even if that's only once in a week.

It's basically what Yahoo and other portals tried to offer since about a decade, except you're neither limited to one provider of aggregation nor the feeds they offer nor any specific tool.

on February 6, 2004 04:34 AM
# said:

Which version of RSS are they excited about?


on February 6, 2004 05:33 AM
# kasia said:

I suggested using RSS at work over a year ago and nobody cared :(

on February 6, 2004 05:47 AM
# wil said:

So, hang on. You're telling me that I should give users RSS feeds so that it makes it possible for them not to visit my site and still get the content off them? OK. Now, considering many sites (including Yahoo!) make the majority of money from selling advertising when eye balls hit their websites -- remind me again why would I want to feed them RSS?

on February 6, 2004 06:20 AM
# Doug said:

Wil, I for one visit a lot of sites more regularly because of RSS. I have about 15 different sites that I read and I'll be damned if I remember to visit them all daily. With RSS, I get one page which shows me the updates to all of the sites. If I want to read that update, I have to click the link which then takes me to the site. Since I've started using RSS, I now visit sites like pcmag.com, anandtech, and slashdot WAY more often than I did before (used to be once a week at most).

Think of it as a "monitoring" tool. It doesn't feed you content as much as it feeds you useful information about site updates (or headlines).

on February 6, 2004 06:58 AM
# wil said:

Aha. Thanks, Doug. That makes sense. But how long will it be until sites just offer the whole whack through RSS and not only tease with the headlines? If sites that are not in for the money (blogs) do this, then doesn't that put pressure on the bigger sites to adopt the new norm?

on February 6, 2004 07:07 AM
# Doug said:

I don't think that will ever happen, because of the reasons you've already previously mentioned. Most sites make money through advertising and they want you to visit their site to read the article. But also, to my knowledge, RSS doesn't support very much formatting (no pictures, etc.) so HTML still makes the most sense for delivering the content.

It still makes for interesting discussion. What if the next version of RSS supported ads, images, and the necessary formatting? Would we see a shift from the "come to our website to read our content" style to the "here our content is, delivered to you wherever you want it" style? I could see arguments both ways, but I could also see an "it doesn't matter" arguement.

on February 6, 2004 07:22 AM
# jr said:

One thing to remember is that RSS (regardless of what version) is effectively "biff". Websites get to offer low bandwidth samplers that provide folks with enticements to come visit. As the number of sites grow in the future, aggregators will probably do a secondary filter on these to allow folks to find precisely what they're looking for.

As for compatibility, I'm guessing that most companies are quite happy with good ol' RSS 0.91, since it provides a URL, a brief plain description and is very lightweight. If they want something heavier, there's another spec, HTML.

on February 6, 2004 09:51 AM
# l.m.orchard said:

Personally, I keep tabs on a few hundred sites a day in my aggregator. I couldn't do that with out RSS. In fact, anymore, if a site hasn't got RSS, and I'm not interested enough to whip up a scraper to provide me with RSS, the site no longer exists to me.

As for ad revenues... well, the distant thunder I hear are ad-enriched RSS feeds approaching...

on February 6, 2004 10:40 AM
# Matt McAlister said:

Keep in mind that RSS can become a revenue stream for a publisher. At InfoWorld, we're posting ads within our feeds. RSS makes business sense for publishers for several reasons:
- drive traffic back to your site
- keep users who are switching from email newsletters to RSS readers
- new revenue stream from the ads in your feeds
- you can also build subscription revenue for users who will pay for full content feeds

on February 6, 2004 12:04 PM
# david said:

Said by kasia: "I suggested using RSS at work over a year ago and nobody cared :("

They'll start caring when other sites offer RSS to people who want tickets as sort of a "if you see this rss feed, run to my place- because I have tickets." ;)

on February 6, 2004 12:33 PM
# Craig said:

Anyone want to start placing bets on each article Jeremy posts about how soon after he hits the "POST" button it is before he has to go in and add the "I've said it before I don't speak for my employer" tagline. And then we can have a side bet on how long it'll be before Jeremy just adds some kind of .sig functionality to his setup so that the tagline's automatically on every post. Maybe a further ultra-speculative sideline bet on how long until Jeremy's blog is mentioned in a Yahoo 10Q or 10K

on February 6, 2004 01:31 PM
# Charles said:

Just to add my $0.02...

RSS is important for a bunch of reasons, not just in terms of what it can do for your average web surfer...there are a load of tools and services emerging which use RSS to syndicate stuff in various ways, eg. http://www.waproll.com which converts RSS into WAP for cell phone access...you can read this very blog on your cell phone if you like.

And with regard to the average web surfer, the real tipping point will come when MS build an RSS aggregator/new reader into outlook...imagine the surge of innovation when a gazillion people suddenly have an RSS news reader on their desktop and discover the kind of thing Doug was talking about...cool.

on February 6, 2004 03:51 PM
# John Gray said:

I didn't discover RSS until recently, and I didn't bother with it until I started trying to read a bajillion blogs every day. I downloaded an RSS reader, and I'm hooked. I can scan the headlines of the blogs and news sites I like, and then visit if something catches my eye. What it means for the RSS providers (as far as I'm concerned) is that -- surprise! -- content is king. If you've got something interesting, I'll go to your site to read it, otherwise, sorry. Tim Bray (http://tbray.org/) mentioned leaving the full text of his posts out of RSS simply because he wants people to hit his site, and I understand this. But Tim provides excellent content of interest to me, so that's fine. In other words, I don't think that RSS feeds reduce the number of *regular* visitors. Better still, I can't imagine why they'd have any negative impact on new visitors. RSS is simply a way to keep people coming back to your site -- people who might otherwise forget about it because of the massive amount of interesting content on the web today.

on February 7, 2004 03:11 AM
# Dirk said:

In my opinion the hype about RSS is way overdone. It's a useful thing, though it's not really Push technology, just pull, but your computer does the work.

Where would RSS be without blogs :)

on February 8, 2004 06:02 AM
# Cuban Jose said:

I don't understand any unhyping of RSS :-)

on February 8, 2004 05:45 PM
# justin said:

anyone remember PointCast? circa 1997ish. that was kind of the precursor to this RSS stuff.

on February 9, 2004 04:12 AM
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