We’re not normal. I mean, come on, let’s face it. Most people still don’t understand RSS,feeds and the concept of web syndication. Some people think RSS is the email killer. Others don’t. Chances are, if you read this blog, you’ve got a feed-reader chock full of subscriptions. If you’re like me, you even subscribe to searches on your own name.
But there’s still a real barrier for normal everyday people to fully grok RSS and its benefits. Devin Reams mourns this barrier:
So why don’€™t we have a .rss file extension? Oh wait, we do, it’€™s called .xml. When I visit nytimes.com/’€¦/Busines.xml I have a pretty good idea of what I’€™m about to open. In theory this file extension will open an XML file allow me and my browser/reader/whatever to open the feed the way I want. So why the hell doesn’€™t it work that way? I open a .html file in Firefox/IE and a website loads. I open a .doc file in Firefox/IE and a document loads. But when I open my .xml file I’€™m suddenly greeted with the most unfriendly looking collection of symbols, tags and words I’€™ve ever met. This is exactly why RSS hasn’€™t taken off yet. It lacks the consistency.
And you know what? He’s right.
RSS is not mainstream because it’s XML and XML by its nature is unforgiving. If anyone expects to invent a protocol/standard and want widespread uptake, the barrier to adoption must be low. Like it or not, the internet exploded because it was easy to generate webpages with FrontPage 98, and places like Geocities gave grandmas the ability to publish with no thought. Fast forward to today and WordPress is so huge because it is simply easy and a no-shit experience for someone with even basic understanding of web publishing.
It doesn’t surprise me that RSS remains in the hands of the tech-savvy – it is not easy to understand and despite plenty of RSS readers, most of which are free, the RSS community has not done a good job of getting the technology into the hands of Great Aunt Mae.
And until they do, RSS readers won’t be in widespread use. And until a more forgiving technology besides XML supports syndication, there still won’t be widespread adoption. If early adopters want a technology to take over the mainstream, they must provide a natural and easy route for the average user to go from no understanding to widespread use.