Biggest Obstacle to RSS Adoption? The Name

Today’s WSJ contains a puffy piece about advertising in RSS feeds, but it does close with the useful point that one of the more significant barriers to RSS adoption remains the only-a-techie-could-love-it name:

But before companies can start chalking up a lot of ad sales in this new forum, more people need to understand what the RSS feeds actually are — and begin using them.

Only half of blog readers recently polled by research firm Nielsen/NetRatings said they had heard of RSS — and they’re considered a tech-savvy group. Only 11% used the technology to monitor blogs, the firm says.

Forrester Research Inc. says only 6% of online adults in North America read information using RSS feeds.

Some key developments, however, could spur more adoption. For instance, Microsoft Corp. said recently that it would include a feature in the next version of its popular Web browser, Internet Explorer, that would allow users to subscribe to feeds and view them. The new browser will be released with the next version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, called Vista, slated to come out next year. It’s now available in a test version.

Some argue that one hurdle to wider use of RSS is the arcane acronym itself. Microsoft has tentatively used the term “Web feeds” as an alternative, a move that has prompted criticism from a few purists in the blogosphere. Google and others, meanwhile, have used the term “feeds.”

“The name needs to change,” says Pheedo’s Mr. Flitter. “It needs to be easier.”


  1. The author of the article is right about the name, but wrong in thinking about RSS as something people access just through news reader clients.
    The real power of RSS is that is can be recombined with other content and redistributed to different web sites and client devices automatically (the semantic web/web 2.0/ whatever you want to call it is all based on xml-powered machine to machine communication, after all).
    If you broadcast an event announcement as RSS, for example, it will get picked up by social calendars and event databases, winding up on people’s web browsers and schedules without necessarily going through an RSS reader.
    And along the way, you’ll be able to reach out to a larger audience, one that you didn’t know existed yet it is interested in attending your event (can you say Long Tail?).

  2. teehee: “The name needs to change,” says Pheedo’s Mr. Flitter.

  3. Ben — You know what? I _totally_ missed that. Darn.

  4. Denis — Agreed. That was the whole point of my “dark matter” HBR article more than a year ago, and it was the one of the main reason why I started messing with RSS and syndication technologies back in … wait for it … 1999 !