Addicted to novelty since 2001

Normal Humans: Wait on RSS

On a private mailing list I read, there’s a tedious argument going on about the relative merits of the RSS autodiscovery mechanisms from MyYahoo and MyMSN. Are you already as bored as I am? Predictably, I had something to say on the subject, and thought it bore repeating here:

As I see it, the debate about MyYahoo vs. MyMSN is based on the theory that there are 3 kinds of people:

  1. Those who fully understand and are sold on RSS
  2. Those that have some grasp of the subscription model, and are MyYahoo or MyMSN users
  3. Those who don’t even remotely understand anything about RSS, subscription or the right mouse button

If I’m guessing, the percentage of users for those three categories breaks down like:

  1. Those who fully understand and are sold on RSS – 3%
  2. Those that have some grasp of the subscription model, and are MyYahoo or MyMSN users – 2%
  3. Those who don’t even remotely understand anything about RSS, subscription or the right mouse button – 95%

Knowing about existing or impending RSS support in Firefox, Safari and Windows Vista, I’ve given up trying to explain it to normal humans. I’m happy to convince people that it’s important, that they’ll never need to hear about or understand the acronym and that it’ll be native in future generation of familiar products. For the most part, I tell them to wait.

Yes, RSS is a wonderful thing. Yes, it will change the way you use the Web. But you know what? If you’re an average human (not a young, university-educated and familiar with computers human), you don’t need your computational life complicated right now. Trust me in knowing that the next time you buy a new computer, it will contain wonderful, simple ways to ‘subscribe’ to websites and be notified when they’re updated.

UPDATE: Conveniently, here’s some Ipsos research from Yahoo (PDF), which, surprise, surprise, flatters MyYahoo (thanks, Robert). 4% of surveyed users use RSS. Apparently 27% of users unknowingly use RSS through MyYahoo, MyMSN, and so forth. This smells highly dubious to me, and has me wondering:

  • Where the online survey was posted?
  • Whether the participants where mislead by the question?

The survey’s methodology describes the question, which might be confusing, but doesn’t give any details on where the participants came from.

4 Responses to “Normal Humans: Wait on RSS”

  1. Richard

    Wait for what? RSS already had a huge impact on the linking and syndicating behaviours of the already-highly-connect, forcing Google and other search engines to change their algorithms (and therefore the shape of the web) to better embrace it. You say that RSS “will change the way you use the Web”, but it’s already done that, whether the 95% of the Web knows it or not.

  2. Jason Landry

    From Richard’s comment above:

    You say that RSS “will change the way you use the Web”, but it’s already done that, whether the 95% of the Web knows it or not.

    I understand what Richard is getting at, but I have to disagree. Regardless of the changes that are happening, my Father continues to use the web as he always has, blissfully unaware of RSS and its ramifications. He’s happy and there really is no need for me to tell him about RSS or how the web is changing.

    Trying to explain the various flavours of RSS, the different ways of subscribing and how most sites don’t even have RSS… I think I’d rather just go for a walk with my Father; it would be a much better use of our time.

    I leave the RSS discussions for people that are a little more web/tech inclined and who can really benefit from its use. However, even in those situations it can get a little dicey.

  3. Darren

    Richard: Fair point. I guess what I meant was that for 95% of people, they’re unaware of how RSS is changing the Web. They’ve yet to adopt the subscription model, and thus should wait for its implementation in familiar tools.

  4. Richard

    “Regardless of the changes that are happening, my Father continues to use the web as he always has, blissfully unaware of RSS and its ramifications.”

    So in other words, exactly what I said. RSS profoundly shaped the Web, thereby shaping what your father sees when he types in a search or the way websites are designed, meaning that it hasn’t so much changed how he uses it but what happens when he uses it.

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