This question, and many variants thereof, has been posed many times, most recently in a WebProNews post entitled “Solving the Insolvable Problem of Information Overload.”
To those unfamiliar with this technology, “RSS” stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” It is that orange icon with three little curved lines, that looks kind of like a Wifi symbol on its side. Before the “f” and “t” icons started popping up all over the place, as badges of social media “street cred,” this was perhaps one of the most ubiquitous icons on the Internet.
Like Delicious, Twitter, and Google Docs, RSS is a technology that I am very passionate about. Being an information junkie, I cherish the ability to plow through massive quantities of news stories through a simplified interface without the clutter of ads, photos, and the other stuff that can “gunk up” my Facebook or Twitter pages.
I share the frustrations of UK-based Web designer Kroc Camen, who lamented the shrinking presence of RSS technologies within browsers. Google Chrome, which has notched an astounding 15% market share since its launch in September 2008, does not include a built-in RSS reader. This is not as much of an issue for me, as I am a 99.99% Firefox guy. Also, bear in mind that Google created a very popular Web-based RSS Reader called (drumroll please) “Google Reader.”
I was, however, a tad miffed when Twitter wiped out the RSS button from its user profile pages with their redesign in September 2010. Perhaps they were emboldened by tech pundit Steve Gillmor’s premature eulogy for RSS / Twitter mash note in which he declared “It’s time to get completely off RSS and switch to Twitter. RSS just doesn’t cut it anymore” (NOTE: Gillmor built upon these sentiments in a more recent TechCrunch article).
For as powerful as RSS is, adoption has been surprisingly low; a 2008 study by Forrester pegged the numbers in the low double digits. This number is startling, especially when you consider Twitter’s 170 million (and growing) user base.
In English, Please
The problem may be a lack of understanding. Acronyms such as “RSS” and “XML” and geekspeak such as “syndication” may cause some people’s eyes to glaze over.
[youtube 0klgLsSxGsU nolink]
Interestingly, the video was created nearly four years ago but is still very relevant. There is veritable treasure chest of RSS readers out there: while Lefever recommends Google Reader for consuming RSS feeds, I personally have had great experiences with SharpReader. I recommend trying a couple different platforms on for size and seeing which one fits you best.
If you are new to RSS, take a look at the video to get a better understanding of how the technology works. It just might be the antidote to help manage the information overload that we all have to contend with. If you know RSS inside and out, this video might offer a preview of the great stuff they do at Common Craft: everything from photo sharing to preparing an emergency kit
The great thing is, you can use RSS to get feeds of the latest news stories from WSI consultants all over the world, by clicking the little orange “doohickey” you see in that row of icons. In Firefox, you can click the orange icon that appears directly in the address bar. The same is true in IE.
In Chrome? Well…there’s an app for that.
About the author: Nikhil Torsekar is a Chicagoland-based Internet Consultant with WSI. To learn more about how WSI can help you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to have one of our consultants perform a competitive Internet Business Analysis (IBA) for your organization today.