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On Death Row With RSS

On Death Row With RSS - The most misunderstood, hardest working format on the webRSS is an innocent victim. Long-term heavy lifter of the internet, RSS (Real Simple Syndication), is a format that has been both misunderstood and under utilized. In it’s most basic form, it is a way to truncate information on the web in a format that is light and easy for just about any device to interpret. For most people, it’s a very easy way to keep up on your favorite blogs or news site without spending your evenings clicking from website to website. An innocent story. 

In the early part of the millennium, RSS was supposed to catch on like wildfire. EVERYONE was supposed to begin using an RSS client or “feed-reader” to consume content from all over the web. Some content creators worried that no one would actually visit their sites (since RSS is read remotely from a text file), Advertisers worried that no one would see their advertisements (not supported by RSS) and RSS developers worried that they couldn’t keep up with the massive wave of new users. None of it ever happened. RSS was a technological flop. It’s the most widely used format that no-one uses.

RSS is a technology with a bad rap. Ever WordPress blog (accounting for almost 14% of all websites and more than 50% of those using a content management system) provides an RSS file for new content. Major news organizations, The New York Times, Reuters, BBC, use RSS to distribute news to their affiliates, users and various reader applications. It’s a core technology for the distribution of data.

So why all of the bad mojo for RSS? It’s a victim of bad marketing. At it’s core, it’s a geek’s format. Designed for consolidating and consuming lots of data, it never had a “killer” app and never had a major brand become a champion for it.

While many have been pronouncing the death of RSS for years, and others are jumping on the bandwagon now, it’s wake is premature. Many services like Twitter and Facebook not only replace the need to use RSS readers, but also provide alternate technology that is truly an improvement over RSS and it’s core XML architecture. RSS still has a place for many. It still powers widgets, podcast networks, news organizations and, of course, blogs.

Before pronouncing RSS dead, we should look at the underpinnings of the software that powers the content and software we use everyday. It’s not going to replace or even compete with the new generation of user-tools, but it still has a long life of service ahead of it.

Category: web design

Tagged: RSS

About Cullmann

Chris Cullmann is a Creative Director and Online Strategist. He works for Ogilvy CommonHealth Interactive Marketing, a digital agency dedicated to healthcare marketing. His professional and personal portfolio includes interactive websites, viral and social media, and online education applications. His portfolio and observations about the design and marketing industry can be found at www.cullmanndesign.com

The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or those who I am professionally connected.

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