RSS Is a Glorified "Favorites" Feature
2 min read

RSS Is a Glorified "Favorites" Feature

RSS is in Internet Explorer 7!!! The blogosphere is shouting from the rooftops. Yawn. I tried RSS in IE7, and it highlights the true shortcoming of current RSS applications — it’s really not much of an improvement over “favorites” or “bookmarks.”

IE7 goes so far as to put the RSS reader in same menu as favorites (or as TDavid puts it “A separate “Feed Centerâ€Â� exists inside the Favorites area.”), which appears in a left-hand navigation column.

So what’s the real innovation over Favorites/Bookmarks in terms of user experience? That it “automatically updates”? That I can get everything all in one place? That it highlights what’s new?

Here’s how IE7’s built-in RSS stylesheet explains the “benefits” of RSS:

When you subscribe to a feed, updated information is automatically downloaded to your browser. The benefit is that you get the latest content from your favorite websites without the trouble of checking websites manually.

So I click on each RSS feed “manually” instead of clicking on each Favorites link manually. That’s the benefit?

Is this going to change the average person’s media life? Hardly. Is it going to make it easier for the average person to suffer from “feed overload”? Probably.

Here’s something to ask yourself as you receive your steady stream of RSS feed update notifications along with your new email notifications and everything else competing for your attention:

**Do I really need to be notified whenever one of the 1,000 blogs I subscribe to posts new content? Is it really that urgent that I need one more distraction in my life?

And if it really makes more sense to review your favorite sources once or twice a day, what’s wrong with a list of links to those sites?

Richard MacManus has a meta-review of the initial reaction to IE7, in which he cites early buzz that “IE7 will kill a lot of independent RSS Aggregator products, due to IE7’s impressive RSS integration features.”

Of course it will. IE7 features are hardly “impressive” but they are certainly integrated, which will be enough for many people to switch from independent aggregators, so they only have to use one application. If RSS aggregators are vulnerable to Microsoft, it’s because they are lacking in any true innovation.

The implementation of RSS has been a failure of imagination. I stand by what I’ve already said about the problem with RSS:

The New Media revolution will come when content is completely atomized and fully tagged, so that it can be remixed into perfectly tailored packages to suit every taste, i.e. truly what I want (when I want it).

On his WordPress blog, Dave Winer gives a peak at his NewsRiver RSS aggregator. It’s worlds away from this IE7 silliness — definitely worth checking out:

That’s why I’m getting ready to ship NewsRiver. To set the bar back where it belongs, where it was when RSS started. To try to get the ball rolling again, in some kind of productive way.

Try it out. Here’s my aggregator. The username/password is snarky/snarky.

And hat’s off the Paul Kedrosky, the original “RSS sucks” maven, for saying it much funnier than I could. (For the record, “RSS sucks” is code for “RSS applications suck”)