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RSS: Does it need a name?

October 30, 2005

Brian Chin of the Seattle Post Intelligencer asks RSS: What’s in a name?

Chin believes the effort being expended on finding a new, more intuitive, more marketable name for RSS is misguided. He says “The average Internet user couldn’t care less what RSS is or how it works.

…[I]f people don’t see or work directly with RSS, why should they be required to call it anything at all?

Google and Yahoo! have already figured that out. Earlier this month, both released elaborate RSS-based online services — Google Reader and Yahoo! Podcasts — that don’t invoke the term ‘RSS’ except in documentation geared toward power users.

Of the two, Google Reader’s accomplishment is more astonishing since it’s an RSS feed aggregator or newsreader. Yet nowhere in the basic explanatory page or the user interface are obvious terms like ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ mentioned.

Chin believes we shouldn’t continue to waste our time on educating users about RSS.

A better approach is to give them useful tools and services based on RSS that let them do things they couldn’t do before. If the tools are designed well and meet consumers’ needs, then more people will start using RSS technology — even if they don’t know that’s what they’re doing.

There is a lot of sense in what Chin says. But I don’t have an easy answer for getting most folks to subscribe to RSS feeds without telling them something about it – like click on that orange link and here’s how you subscribe to feeds from this site. When Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista, comes out next year incorporating RSS and feeds that may all change

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