What’s wrong with RSS

What’s right with RSS

Maybe I should start out by mentioning what’s right about RSS. After all, for those who have adopted the technology, there really isn’t much wrong with it. It keeps us updated on the latest content coming from the weblogs and sites we care about the most. It’s beautifully simple and flexible, so why haven’t the masses adopted it?

Missing the masses

Even though the technology has been around for years now, the average user is still confused about what RSS is, and how to use it. Even if a user knows what it is and how it could benefit their web browsing life, confusion still exists over how best to get it to work with their particular system.

Perhaps there are too many options to choose from… There are RSS readers that are built into most web browsers (Safari & Firefox); Readers that are stand-alone applications (NetNewsWire or Newz Crawler); Then there are web based readers to choose from (Google Reader). And each one has a different procedure for adding feeds. For the average user, the benefits simply don’t outweigh the effort to climb the RSS learning curve.

Shortening the curve

The great ideal of RSS is that it is a standardized format for delivering fresh content. A similar standard for subscribing to feeds should become a standard as well. Browser and Reader makers should get together and agree on a subscribing standard that is dead easy to use. Right click on a feed icon and choose ‘Add Feed,’ perhaps. Done and done. 

In your face

RSS needs better marketing. Those that have a vested interest in the success of the standard, as well as those of us who use it, need to do a better job of spreading the word, and explaining it in a way that is more palatable to the average user. Until we can overcome this, RSS will probably remain a mystery to the average user.

Do you use RSS? What reader do you use? How does it affect your browsing experience?

2 Comments


After trying earnestly to use the RSS feed feature in Outlook on my brand new work PC for almost a month, I had to come back, look this post up, and comment.

The problem is there\’s no consistency. If I want to see images, or the full article without having to scroll left and right, I need to do extra things – clicks and opening a browser. Sometimes I can read the full article, sometimes I cannot. I cannot get the archiving functions to work consistently.

So what I\’ve learned is that while I would probably really, truly like a good RSS solution, I don\’t even know where to begin. Maybe it\’s that Microsoft missed the mark on the user experience (but with a track record like theirs, what are the chances?).

I\’m hesitant to try a browser-based RSS solution, because I\’d rather just browse the website.

Reply

Authors have the option on how much of their article is included in a feed, so you\’re right, there is no consistency in that respect. Personally, I prefer if the author includes the entire article, images, videos, etc. included. That way I can stay in my feed reader (I use Netnewswire) and not have to open a browser.

I\’m not aware of any high quality Windows readers, not because there aren\’t any, but because I don\’t use a pc much. I didn\’t even realize that Outlook was trying to fill that space.

You should give Google Reader a try. You mentioned that you\’d prefer to just browse the site itself, which is fine, unless you\’ve got 100+ sites you\’d like to stay on top of… Google Reader would provide you with one place to go to view your feeds. That\’s the goal, regardless of whether it\’s a browser or a stand alone app.

Good luck.

Also, you should get yerself a Gravatar.

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