With all the hype in the past few months about RSS taking over the world, I've been getting myself up to speed by meeting with some of the companies in the space, by publishing my own blog and RSS feed, and by re-launching our company's Web site as a blog with an RSS feed.
There has been a proliferation of startups in the last two years that are focused on RSS. These companies are hitting the new technology from every angle, and they're doing everything they can to get it ready for prime time. It's not quite there yet, but we're getting closer. What do I mean by "ready for prime time?"
Critical Mass: We need to have 25 million or more end users really using RSS, not just the tech/finance/journalist axis that dominates usership today. We need hundreds of mainstream publishers and marketers using RSS, not just a handful of businesses and loads of individuals or small sites.
We probably need another name for it that doesn't sound so geeky, either. I heard recently that Google is going to start calling RSS by the much-friendlier moniker "Web Feeds"; that in and of itself would help encourage usage.
Ease of Use: It needs to be easy to get in the game as a consumer, easy to publish as a business. It is called Really Simple Syndication, after all, and it's not even close yet, either in terms of technology or awareness.
On the consumer side, subscribing is getting easier, but anything that either needs a plug-in or yet another Web site to bookmark in order to work really well isn't quite easy enough. And the process we had to go through at Return Path in order to easily publish an RSS feed and update it regularly was time consuming, non-obvious, and in the end not exactly what we wanted it to be.
Organization: Making sure RSS doesn't quickly fall into the "information overload" bucket as the number of publishers proliferates and as the number of hours in people's day remains constant. Two years ago, I happily read 10 RSS feeds. Now I have about 50, which is quite frankly about 10 or 15 more than I can really handle, and I have to consistently purge old ones as new ones become available.
The world needs better directories, search capabilities, feed customization, keyword feed aggregation, and the like, when every single Web site and individual has its own RSS feed. Ultimately, the world will also need some kind of rating system or reputation system to help end users determine whether they want a new feed.