RSS Feeds don't meet expectations

By December 13, 2007
Keywords : Smart city, usage

XML feeds are now more than 10 years old, and are known as one of the biggest landmarks of Web 2.0 Web sites. But today, non-geek consumers are still reluctant to use them and this is the consequence of at least two different fact

s. Feed producers are not playing the game First, feeds have been misused by the services that are promoting their content through them. Most of the time, their truncated feeds are just marketing tools aimed at “pulling” visitors to their Web site and content. Most of “content sites” have an ad-based business model or at least are in need of visitors to build-up their authority, and feeds are very valuable content leaks for these sites. XML feeds’ main goal is to decouple the content from the form to ensure portability, thus this allows the content to be displayed on many different devices, platforms, etc. This also increases advertisement incomes, which is most of the time part of the form, and content (feed readers are not “exposed” to ads). Additionally, the feed syndication allows visitors to receive actual information without even visiting the Web site. Feed producers are in a very competitive environment. Not providing its own feeds clearly exposes a Web site to a decreasing popularity. Consequently, the only solution for them is to trim their feeds to offer a small insight of the actual article. If readers find this insight interesting, this solution provides an immediate positive outcome which generate traffic by dragging visitors onto the publisher’s site when links are clicked. However, the risky long-term effect would be to see those feeds turning into ads for readers. In order to generate clicks and visits, feeds are getting more and more appealing, which higher the risk of deception for the person who reads. On the long run, it might become almost impossible to build a faithful community of readers if there’s a feeling of being “forced” to go onto the publisher’s site. XML feeds are technologies, not products My second reason for the low adoption of RSS by users may actually be even worse: RSS feeds are technologies and not products. Consumers care about products and not technologies; hence, XML feeds will definitely remain a geek-thing and might never become broadly adopted by the public. As an example, take a look at the iPhone to see geeks who regret to be a 3G compatible phone, and when “average” users find it to be too slow. Their approach is quite different, and the only valid concern is clearly the usage. The same goes for the XML feeds where nobody cares about the technology, and the usages are pretty. All RSS readers - such as iGoogle or Netvibes - are providing the same characteristics: feed reading, status of each item in the feed (read/new), favorites, etc. And that’s pretty much it. I am the lucky owner of a modest blog called ouvre-boite where my readers can actually choose to receive my recently published articles by either subscribing to the RSS feeds or via e-mails. The e-mailing system is actually powered by the XML feeds. Now guess what! I have more readers choosing the e-mailing option than RSS feeds! Isn’t it the best proof that XML feeds are not for the rest of us? By Julien Genestoux, a valued contributor for Atelier   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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