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RSS Evolution: What to Expect?

I don't get why most developers and enterprises do not seem to see what's shaping up in the RSS world.  Quite frankly, I know most people underestimate RSS.  You say: what could be less basic than a simple XML text file?  What could possibly a 20k file do when my server already host so many big video and software files?  Well, this simple way to think could quickly show you wrong.

I was reading a post by Scobleizer titled "Is blogging important? 157 million hits says it is!".  Based on this info, it seems that two sites are getting 157 millions hits on RSS alone.  And as Scobleizer says: "if you told me three years ago that our blog sites would be getting hit that hard within three years I would have looked at you like you were doing crack".  Now, this must mean something, doesn't it?  RSS is way more demanding that we were thinking (and still do).

An example of RSS reaching a critical limit: we could recently read on the FeedBurner's blog that they "will very soon begin sending out over 100Mb/second of feed content" and needed to upgrade all their hardware to gigabit connectivity.  Simple RSS files, ya right.

Microsoft's and FeedBurner's servers are big, you might think.  Well, they have a head start in the RSS world, in that they have already a great number of users.  But that's nothing compared to what is coming.  Don't forget: only 8% of the current Internet users know what is or how to use RSS.  I could say the tip of the iceberg.

But with Microsoft IE 7 and the Windows RSS Platform coming soon, not only subscribing to a RSS feed will be so simple that even your grandmother will be doing it, but also a lot of indy programmers will be coding simple software that consumes RSS.  This means: more, more, more and a lot more subscribers to your RSS feeds. Did I say more?

What's the problem with that?  Bandwidth consumption, for a start.  But, you say, there's "HTTP Last-Modified" and the "Gzip Encoding" that can take care of this.  Yes, but no thanks.  Question: why do is RSS that popular?  It's simple.  A simple text file, XML formatted.  Anyone with a bit of HTML knowledge can understand in a minute how to write and read an RSS file.  Can you see the picture yet?  Anyone can write an RSS reader that doesn't (and will not) take care of the Last-Modified and even less the Gzip.  And I'm not even starting with those bad-behaving users that pull all feeds every 1 minute.

Another problem: RSS is slowly and quietly replacing active browsing.  Instead of visiting 20 sites per hand each day (I now have over 80 feeds that I set in my News Interceptor reader), I read the news and visit the sites only if something interest me.  No need to browse when I can get the information to come to me.  And I keep adding new feeds as I find interesting sources.

But the biggest challenge is in the subscription model.  RSS is a client to publisher model, in that it's the user that decide to subscribe or unsubscribe to a publisher's feed.  The publisher is there, it can see the number of clients grows on its RSS.  You might notice a trend here: once a user subscribe to a feed, it often doesn't unsubscribe, even if the information is no longer required.  This could become a challenge to manage all these ghost subscribers.

After all these elements, I still don't get why nobody seems to see what's coming.  And don't think that I am the only one thinking this: I recently was contacted by a very well know company (can't state name here) for feed bandwidth problems and interested in implementing our RSScache technology, which is a good step in correcting the above concerns.

Hopefully we will see the community more active on the matter.

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