One of the things that I have not been paying enough attention to is the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 7. This is one of the good things about SES. It helps me get a broader picture of things than I tend to get in my day to day work. While there, I got a better understanding of one of the key features of this upcoming browser update from Microsoft. You can get the feature review of IE 7 here.
That is, RSS auto-discovery. RSS has been historically the domain of advanced users for a variety of reasons. For one, most users have no idea what it is. Two, they don’t know where to look for it. And three, when they open an RSS file and see XML, they assume that they are looking at a broken page. That’s a lot of big obstacles to adoption.
IE 7 includes improvements that address these problems. For one, RSS feed links are going to made much more obvious to users, so they do not need to know what RSS is. And when a user looks at an RSS file, they will no longer see XML, they will see a rendered page. This does appear to attack many of these problems head on.
This was discussed in detail in the SEM Via Communities, Wikipedia & Tagging session at SES. This session had Rick Klau of FeedBurner, Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts, LLC, and Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit.
The panel seemed to feel that IE 7 could cause a big leap in RSS consumption. I agree with them, and think that it will in fact cause a significant step up in usage. However, I also think it will be a while before the average user fully appreciates the advantages of subscribing to content.
The premise of subscribing to content is an excellent one, and I for one am in to it. The idea is that there is way too much stuff available on the web to try and read everything out there. So you want to pick off the sources you trust most, and you want to be notified when those sources have new stuff for you to read.
Much like the newspaper being delivered to your doorstep, RSS allows the content you have selected to be delivered to your browser, with all your trusted sources of content aggregated together. Unlike newspapers, you get to select the sources of information you trust most. Very cool. As a side note, even though very few people have picked up on it, this is what the subscribed links portion of the Google Co-Op program is all about.
But I suspect that the concept of subscribing to content will take some time to become mass market. There are a lot of users who do not yet have 10 sites they like to check on every day. For those of us in the business, it is real, and it’s compelling. And it wil become a part of nearly everyone’s daily routine in time, but this could still be 10 years down the road.
For the record, we advise our clients to get on board with RSS now. Locking in long term relationships with your customers who are into the model sure seems like a good idea.