The RSS Files -- Readers Weigh In

By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005; 8:00 AM

"We do what we must and call it by the best names." Using Ralph Waldo Emerson as my guide, I suggested in a column last month that we rename a new technology that makes it easier for us to get information quickly on the Internet.

My suggestion was to scrap RSS, which stands for "Really Simple Syndication," and replace it with KOSS, or "Kind of Simple Syndication." I believe that this presents a more accurate description of how most people outside the technophile community will think of it after they try using it.

I said that many Web sites use it (including washingtonpost.com), but even their often lengthy and friendly instructions prove too difficult for millions of "average" Internet users to follow. As a result, they'll give up on RSS before discovering how cool it really can be. That will do little to help the Web sites that are using it to increase their exposure, and often, their income.

I also advised Web sites to make RSS unavoidable, friendly and simple enough that all people had to do was click once on those orange "XML" buttons (or whatever button they desire) and have it immediately show up in an RSS reader that also could be downloaded and installed in one click.

That column received no shortage of responses. I present some here, along with some rebuttals from yours truly.

The Fat Lady's Response

* "Opera version 8 now has an integrated RSS reader, so it's about as easy as you can get. I'm not sure any technology is actually seamless, but this is pretty close. More and more major news websites are now using it, in addition to the bloggers, and it's a key factor in Podcasting." -- Randall Meston, London, U.K.

Rijk van Geijtenbeek, Wijk bij Duurstede, Netherlands: "You forgot to mention the great Opera browser. Truly one-click subscription to feeds, and easy access in the browser. As for 'horror stories with this and other supposedly "easy" technologies', I think is simple enough once you figure out what it is. But it is important to recognize that not everyone lives in their Web browser. Many people simply don't need to keep informed about lots of Web sites all the time, so learning about yet another way to stay informed is too much trouble."

* "I had the same experience as you with various RSS feed applications, but then I tried the feature in the Opera browser. One click on the orange tab, one more click of the confirm dialog box. Essentially one click." -- Stephen R. Diamond, Los Angeles, Calif.

Yes, from all accounts Opera is a great browser for handling RSS, but most people don't use Opera. Not only that, I suspect that most people won't be willing to run out and pay for a browser when the ones they have used for years are free. People for the most part will discover RSS through free browsers such as the Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.

But wait, Robert, did you say "Firefox?" (For those of you interested in downloading Opera, here's the link where you can find it.

Sage Advice

* Jenn Huff, Tucson, Ariz.: "I hate to tell you this, but while reading your column (in a Mozilla browser) I downloaded the Sage RSS reader for Firefox. I was able to get RSS feeds up and running pretty quickly. I agree it was not a one-click process, but after I got the hang of the Sage discovery process, its pretty easy."

* "Have you checked out 'Sage,' the RSS plugin for Firefox? It works as well as most readers out there but since it's a Firefox plugin, it is also built directly into the browser. ... There are still some kinks to be worked out, and subscribing to each site isn't as simple as it should be. ... It would be nice if it was simpler than this, but Firefox and its plugins are constantly moving forward, so I suspect this is not too far away." -- Adam Gerard, Washington, D.C.


CONTINUED     1           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company