RSS ? Will It Really Become Mainstream?

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I am not one to have New Year's resolutions, but I do plan ahead. As we reached the last quarter of 2004, I decided that 2005 would be, for me, the year of article writing and RSS.

I have kept to my plan, but what has been happening on the RSS front? I have dutifully been using Blogs and RSS throughout 2005 to date. What about everybody else, though? Has this been the year when RSS has taken off?

One thing for sure is that there has been a lot of activity amongst internet marketers. According to Overture, they had 43,947 searches for RSS in April 2005. Out of interest, that compares to 825,674 for internet marketing. It is unlikely that an ordinary consumer would search for RSS; they are interested in the subject rather than the technical delivery term. Over 40,000 searches is high, and I think it is a fair bet that a majority of those will be marketing people trying to get up to speed and trying to understand what all the fuss is about.

One thing that does seem apparent is the over supply of information on the internet about RSS; in other words, the number of websites trying to push RSS is way out of kilter with the number of searches. Those 43,947 searches, according to Keyword Analyser, will bring up a staggering 275,000,000 results; that is a Results/Search ratio of 6258. That is very high, and indicates a tough market to penetrate and make money out of, at least on that search term. Do you think there are a lot of people looking for RSS tutorials? Well, in April 2005 there were just 272 on Overture. Results brought up by the search? 108,000,000! That's a R/S ratio of 397,059. Big supply, and little demand. If that were the gold market, the price of gold would be falling through the floor.

I admit that none of those figures mean a great deal, and nothing about the prospects of RSS becoming mainstream. Whether we reach the stage where many millions of consumers use RSS feeds as a matter of course will depend very much on the likes of Google, Yahoo, and MSN. All three are working away, beta testing various aspects of RSS. My Yahoo has been beta testing subscription to RSS feeds for some time now, and if I start a new feed, My Yahoo is my first port of call to subscribe to my own feed. That way, Yahoo know about it and the Yahoo search engine robot will dutifully go and check it out.

In due course, it will be up to the likes of Yahoo to convince their users that there are good reasons to subscribe to RSS feeds. To achieve that, the user interface for RSS will need to be seamless from their normal daily online activity. Things are gradually moving in that direction, but it remains to be seen whether RSS will ever become part of the every day online life of the average consumer.

Much of the interest surrounding RSS has been as a Spam Avoidance System. However, last week I was doing some research on RSS feeds through My Yahoo, and it was evident already that in some topics spam is beginning to rule the roost as far as the search results go. Let us hope that Yahoo and the other key players find ways to filter out the spammers, so that if RSS feeds do become mainstream, all is clean, welcoming and useful for the average user.

Roy Thomsitt is the owner, webmaster and author of and

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