Forrester released a report today ($279 download if you want it). Titled “What’s holding RSS back?” it claims that only 11% of Internet consumers use RSS and that those who have not don’t understand it.
Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion responds that :
“..while feed adoption may have crested the idea of online opt-in communications is just getting going. The Facebook newsfeed, Twitter and Friendfeed are perfect examples of opt-in vehichles that bring content you care about to you. In each case, you’re total in control. You can unsubscribe from individuals or groups and tailor the stream so that what you want finds you.”
Whilst Steve is right about the adoption of technologies like Twitter, Friendfeed and Facebook, that really misses the point about RSS.
RSS is simply a form of XML, designed for allowing applications to syndicate, and others to aggregate. It is not a “consumer application. It is an enabling technology for consumer applications.
Somebody who reads a classified ad on Oodle.com is doing so because, in the background, RSS is being used to get the Ad from its source, onto Oodle. If you read the same ad on one of Oodle’s network partners like Yell, it may have gotten there via an RSS feed. Similarly, a Techmeme article arrives, partly due to RSS.
In other words, RSS is widely adopted and makes possible a wide range of applications that rely on aggregation (inbound data) or syndication (outbound data). Is the movement of data around the network, by applications, using RSS, going to stall. I don’t think so. Are the number of consumers who see data on the web, data that is only there because of the existence of RSS, going to grow? Hell yes!
It feels like Forrester may have been asking the wrong question. Not, how many consumers want RSS? But, how many Internet users want applications that can save them browsing and discovery time by aggregating their preferred content into one or more places? The former may stall (although I doubt that is true) but the latter will certainly not.
Having said that, the report does have a point. Giving consumers places to read about their passions, drawing on the work of many, via aggregation, has to be a priority for Internet publishers. But just as high a priority is hiding the complexities that go along with today’s “blog readers” and simply giving people the content they want. No argument there.