In the past few months I've been getting a better and better understanding of the power and the weakness of RSS. While the "true believers" seem to go a bit overboard in their promotion of RSS as a means of notification and syndication, it certainly does have its benefits in certain circumstances. However, I'm not ready to jump on the "email is dead and RSS is the savior" bandwagon just yet. RSS does have advantages: it gets around the spam problem by being a subscription mechanism and not a push mechanism. However, it also has its limitations - which are only going to become more apparent as more people adopt it. I haven't yet been convinced that RSS can scale properly. People will (and do) disagree - but the automated nature of RSS readers presents a clear problem for overburdening servers with automated pings. However, beyond the technical limitations, I think RSS has a marketing problem. It is still terribly confusing for most people - and most publicity efforts so far do more to confuse rather than help. First of all, I don't care what the hell RSS stands for, but having an acronym be the focus is confusing (and scary) to your average user. Second, most folks don't understand why they need an RSS aggregator/newsreader or whatever it is. They have email which they understand (content is pushed) and they have the web which they understand (content is pulled). Where RSS fits into this is a bit confusing and the terminology doesn't help. I think it needs a clearer explanation that fits with email and the web. Perhaps something along the lines of "content is grabbed and stored"? Even the awkwardness of that sentence shows what a difficult issue this is. I didn't care about SMTP when I started using email. I didn't care about HTML when I started using the web - so why this focus on "RSS"? If folks want to promote "RSS" they should be promoting the benefits, and not the standard itself. They also need to be aware of its limitations - and work towards ways of overcoming them. I like RSS and think it has a ton of potential, but I think it's getting too much hype in some circles.
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