RSS By Any Other Name

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"Come ride with me through the veins of history. I'll show you a god who falls asleep on the job."
Muse / Knights of Cydonia

Posted on September 24, 2005 2:18 AM in XML
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

Last month geeks were up-in-arms about Microsoft's desision to refer to RSS feeds as "web feeds" in Internet Explorer 7. Robert Scoble quickly defended the move, and not surprisingly, so did Asa Dotzler, calling RSS a "silly name." Asa also raises the point that RSS feeds are called "Live Bookmarks" in Firefox.

A month later, the uproar seems to have faded away, but that doesn't make the topic any less interesting. I have to agree with Scoble and Asa, simply because RSS isn't the only dog in the fight. Referring to all feeds as RSS is a bit like referring to all cola as "Coke." Oh wait, people do that, don't they? Well, I think you get my point.

It should also be noted that Microsoft and Mozilla aren't the only ones to put a friendly label on feeds. Another technology powerhouse you might have heard of, Google, calls feeds "web clips" in their latest version of Google Desktop.

You might be able to make the argument that everyday web surfers have figured out what XML and HTML are, but you won't be able to win that argument. Ask a fourth grade schoolteacher like my mom (I'm beginning to sound a bit like Blake Ross here) what HTML is and she'll probably give you the same look her students would give if she asked them to give an example of a quadratic equation. Ask her what a web page is, though, and she'll probably show you a few of her favorites.

The geeks who are shaping the web need to realize that they're shaping it for primarily non-geeks who really, really, really want to understand their computer right from the get-go without needing to understand fancy mumbo-jumbo. Intuitiveness is a serious problem requiring a lot of thought on the part of software developers. Sticking with RSS simply for the sake of being stubborn is nothing more than a Really Stupid Solution to that problem.


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