The Value of RSS

By Deane Barker on September 21, 2002

One of the upcoming goals I have for DeaneBarker.net is an RSS channel. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” (or “Rich Site Summary,” depending on who you ask) and is a way for other programs and sites to display things from this site without actually coming here. (I know, I know — no one visits. I’m working on it.) RSS, then, let’s the webmaster deliver pure content, without any context or formatting at all. Here are two reasons I like this:

It lets people view the content how they want to. I’m a firm believer that the most important person is the content consumer. If they want to use their own font face, great. If they want to suppress the graphics, wonderful. If they want to take my RSS feed and format it up in the shape of a clown’s face, more power to them. I deliver the content, and I’m thrilled if someone wants to change the context or formatting to suit their Web-browsing experience, because that’s the only experience that matters for that person.

It downplays design, and emphasizes content. Although design has a place on the Web, too often you see sites that are all design, Flash, and gizmos, with no appreciable content to speak of. These sites can’t survive over an RSS feed. RSS delivers information and content, not design. For a site to have a successful RSS feed, it has to deliver content good and compelling enough for someone else to want to read it independent of how it looks. It’s like Brittany Spears having to sing from behind a curtain without a band or sound mixer. Hopefully this will raise the bar a bit on content quality as the content-challenged sites fall by the wayside.

RSS is a small step into the dream (my dream, anyway) of sites not being sites at all, instead becoming streams of information that consumers format and present to themselves in a way that makes them happy. This is the future, and RSS is the first step.

Gadgetopia