Monday, June 27, 2005

Thoughts on Longhorn RSS integration

I thought I’d drop my two cents into the buzz surrounding the Channel 9 Longhorn RSS video from last week. The IE / Longhorn RSS team is obviously excited about the RSS integration within Longhorn. And if you haven’t seen the video, it’s worth checking out.

What I think is most exciting about the RSS-Longhorn integration is a point that I believe the team was trying to communicate, but that might have gotten just a little bit clouded in all of the excitement. I know the team was excited about everything that RSS can do… everything from cell phones publishing GPS location feeds, to the sky is the limit. And I’m sure that it’s easy to get side-tracked by all of the neat stuff that RSS can do. But what’s exciting about RSS on Longhorn, and the reason it makes so much sense is one driving factor… simplicity!

As I see it, RSS on Longhorn has the potential to be the evolution of the concept of Favorites or Bookmarking, driven by a consistent and simple user interface.. And what’s going to drive success on the platform is just how simple and integrated RSS gets, to the point where it really does change the nature in which everyone consumes content.

So how is what I’m saying different than what anyone else is saying? I mean, people like Robert Scoble have been extolling the virtues of RSS for a while now, right? Well, right… they have. And I think that most people in the blogosphere get the concept, and see the value. But I think what some people are missing or forgetting, is that simplicity is the thing that makes RSS so valuable (remember RSS is really simple syndication).

Now, I know there’s been talk that Microsoft is going too far with regard to extending RSS beyond the industry specification. And while I can certainly see the argument, I think Microsoft is going to have to go even further if they want to see mass adoption of RSS on the new platform. In fact, I think they need to integrate RSS under the umbrella of Favorites, since most people are already familiar with, and comfortable with the concept. None of this is to say that developers can’t do crazy/neat stuff using RSS and enclosures on the platform (if you haven’t seen the video, you can liken enclosures to email attachments, or podcasts.) Until today, feed-reading has been more or less limited to the realm of third-party applications, like RSS Bandit. Integrating it into Longhorn means that everyone is going to start using it. And as more and more sites start publishing feeds, it’s really going to drive how people consume content. So while I think that RSS feeds on Longhorn are great… I think user-friendliness and simplicity are the factors that are really going to make or break widespread adoption.

To bottom line it, RSS on Longhorn has huge potential. And the team has come up with some really great stuff in a very short amount of time (e.g. enclosures, and RSS “detection” on the IE chrome). Now let's hope Microsoft keeps running with this, so that RSS on Longhorn lives up to everything we've been hearing about. Let's see RSS tied conceptually to Favorites and even more tightly integrated on the platform!

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