Google changes the RSS landscape

One reason why people pay so much attention to what Google does is that it can change the landscape with a single move. Take the whole RSS feed-syndication thing, which — despite the relative popularity of Bloglines.com and NewsGator.com and their ilk — is still in its infancy as far as the bulk of Web users are concerned. That’s why things like Yahoo adding RSS support to its email app (much as I dislike having feeds in my mail) make a difference.

Now, the ever-diligent Niall Kennedy has managed to reverse-engineer the API (application programming interface) that Google uses in its Reader application, which sparked the interest of a couple of Google staffers — who said the company is close to releasing its API for public use. (Paul Kedrosky says the API announcement is also a way for Google to deke around criticism of its reader).

I’m not a programmer, but I think this could change things dramatically. For one thing, it could make it even easier for a few smart people to come up with easy-to-use feed readers — apps that are light-years ahead of Google’s own reader, which I happen to think is lame. As Niall has pointed out, Google has already made it relatively easy to come up with an Atom feed for your blog of choice, since Google’s app takes whatever feed it is given and converts it to Atom.

As more than one person has pointed out, RSS (or Atom) is plumbing — hopefully Google’s move will make it easier for people to just use the facilities instead of worrying about what format the equipment is based on. Phil Wainwright says he expects that RSS readers as we know them will eventually disappear (or be absorbed). So maybe Scoble is too late in his attempt to get Microsoft to buy NewsGator.

5 thoughts on “Google changes the RSS landscape

  1. Pingback: Meta-Google

  2. Wow, I am chiming in a lot. Sorry, Mathew — you are just putting up some interesting topics and my semi-retirement-addled brain likes the chance to talk about them…and then there’s the egg nog ;-). Anyhoo…

    If the question is “will Readers disappear?” then the answer is “of course they will.” Why? Because this functionality is best described as a feature, and a feature’s natural home is as a part of another thing (and, of course, the dotcom bust was riddled with the remnants of “features” masquerading as companies. I rest my case). From the user’s perspective, RSS is just another way to get information — what, where and when they choose. In that context, you can see that the natural home for this functionality is inside places where people can see the output of their feed selections as well as other things of self-selected interest to them. The self-created, uber home page if you will. Yes, this basic concept has been around forEVER, but they haven’t really been user created. You sorta had to pick and choose from what the portal had on offer (thanks to content and eComm distribution deals) but, as you are starting to see with GOOG’s /ig for instance, RSS and ATOM feeds are becoming more commonplace in this type of environment. Said another way, something like this will have to happen for this type of syndication to become “mass market” so it likely will.

    – Stuart

  3. I totally agree, Stuart. That’s why I prefer using something like netvibes.com rather than a straight-ahead RSS reader. I remember way back when, everyone used to talk about things like Archie and Gopher and whatnot, and then everything got sucked up by the Web, and it was much better.

    As for the chiming in, please keep it up, eggnog or no eggnog 🙂

  4. Thanks 🙂

    Netvibes is cool. Now, imagine that sort of functionality in a place with 60 million uniques a month or what-have-you and you can get a sense of what’s likely, I’d say. This is why GOOG’s /ig has potential to bust this open as it gets better, as do MSN or YHOO if they can wrap their heads around/figure out how to make money off of allowing users to do their own thing. At that point, RSS (or Son Of, whatever that might be) becomes true must-have plumbing, likely with a strong just-in-time, opt-in advertising-esque business model associated with it. And, guess what? Opt-in direct mail email becomes yesterday’s news because folks are getting news about stuff they are interested in, in front of them as it happens. Something like that feels likely to me, anyway.

    And on the topic of way-back-when, I remember dialling-up to use eAAsy SABRE at 2400 baud or whatever to check flights in 1992, maybe? And being dazzled. 🙂

    – Stuart

  5. I must admit, as much as I like Netvibes — and it is currently way better than Google’s page or live.com — it doesn’t appear to have anything that isn’t easily duplicated, or any way of tying a user to Netvibes as opposed to anywhere else. Maybe they’re hoping to get bought by GYM.

  6. I hadn’t even looked at live (poor form for a former MS badge owner, even a transient one like myself). Taking a peek, it smells a lot like my l’il description, though. Sigh. So much for me having an original idea.

    And on the GYM membership (I just thought of that…:-)) — seems unlikely for Netvibes, I’d have to say, for the reasons you point to.

    – Stuart

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