Yesterday evening I attended the SDForum Web Services SIG meeting held at the Microsoft Campus in Silicon Valley. The meeting topic was “What is RSS?” and featured three speakers presenting to a group of about 70. These are my notes from the meeting with some rough editing.
Update 2004-03-23: The original PDFs from the three presenters have been posted.
E-mail Newsletters are Dead, Long Live RSS
Chris Pirillo – Founder & Head Geek, Lockergnome.com;
Chris appeared live via webcast; there were a few glitches, including a 20-second lag time that made feedback from the local site difficult, but it actually worked pretty well.
- His background is in e-mail publishing, looking at desktop syndication from that viewpoint
- E-mail is easy to use, adapt, explain, everyone has an e-mail address (if not more), delivery is simple (list software); conversion rates are relatively high (clickthru rate)
- Problems: channel getting polluted, challenge response systems, spam, etc.; support costs for e-mail publishers are high (ISP blocks, user errors, various reasons why email doesn’t get delivered)
- If you call yourself an “e-mail publisher”, now presumed to be a spammer
- From the user’s perspective, people think twice about filling out an email form; trust is no longer implied
- Result is e-mail more cost prohibitive now as a publishing medium
- Need something easy to deliver, easy to put together, open cross-platform (“standard”), a format that’s understood
- RSS is very powerful, various flavors and politics don’t matter; the software matters (aggregators)
- Lots of software and services available today, newsmonster, newsgator, newzcrawler, netnewswire for osx, feeddemon
- People sometimes confuse RSS with blogging; RSS feeds published even though people didn’t realize, then aggregators came, both grew together
- Atom created from day one to be a ‘standard’, not controlled by a single entity, without the politics, but it’s caused a lot of political “pissing match”; hopefully it will be the clear winner going forward
- How do you get people to understand RSS? Simple: have them try it.
- E-mail has a lot more people familiar with it compared to rss or syndicating content
- RSS puts the user in control (you are requesting the feeds)
- If you’re giving your content out thru email, why not give it out via rss? it’s not that expensive
- How to monetize it? Lockergnome already doing it with targeted advertising, trying to not annoy the user
- Beyond advertizing, sell access to premium feeds (aggregator needs to support authentication), Bloglines.com “wonderful” sharing your subscriptions
- Blogging Changebot: feed it your OPML feed, will ping you when your channels are updated (not perfect, but it’s free)
- Kunekt.com – service translated between vCards and RSS
- Bottom line: *today*, there are many benefits to RSS, moreso that other technologies that he’s seen, might say ‘push’ reincarnated, but no one owns this; it’s a powerful idea that’s working
- Lockergnome stats: 1M unique IP addresses last month just from RSS traffic
- Still getting off the ground, gaining popularity
RSS: The Next VC’s Darling?
Thomas Gieselmann – General Partner, BV Capital; Tom gave a background on the projects he’s been involved with and explained that he’s looking at the RSS space to find new investment opportunities.
- Current period reminds him of 1998, lots of positive energy, smart people
- He showed charts illustrating traffic for bloglines & feedster, growth of channels in syndic8
- Excited because he’s learning a lot, lots of high signal-to-noise in RSS feeds
- RSS food chain: content products -> publishing tools -> directories/search -> aggregators
- Parallels with HTML evolution:
- Phase 1: news, destination sites
- Phase 2: search, portals, directories, e commerce
- Phase 3: subscription services, social networks, blogs
- RSS evolution:
- Phase 1: blogs
- Phase 2: news content (free & paid), search, directories, custom feeds
- Phase 3: not yet known
- Mass market challenges: finding channels (OPML), declining signal-to-noise ratio, teaser headlines only, ads, low quality feeds
- Biz challenges: low tech barriers, open source, Microsoft, Google, tools market will be entered by giants (compared to MS entering internet), monetization
- Value drivers: dramatic usability increase, network effects, brand leaders, stickiness & switching costs, proprietary technology & barriers, leveraging RSS-specific values: targeted advertising
Developing Web Services with RSS and ATOM
Kevin Burton – Project Founder and Primary Developer, NewsMonster.org; Kevin gave more details about RSS and the new Atom syndication format and also touched on FOAF.
Today Kevin posted his slides, so go check them out if you’re interested.
I liked some of his closing comments the best:
- Syndication is important
- You can’t ignore RSS/Atom
- RSS/Atom is easy
- If you don’t have a feed, you’re not doing your job