Seeing as the year is winding down, I thought I'd re-publish some of my better posts from 2005. The following was originally published in Read/WriteWeb on 22 January 05. It's still as relevant now as it was then, maybe more so given what companies like Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google are working on using RSS. Here it is:
To follow-up on my rather bold prediction for RSS in my previous post: "in the not too distant future, more people will subscribe to topic/tag/remix feeds than feeds of actual people."
One of the reasons I think this may eventuate is that blogging is and always will be a minority sport (as I've referred to it in the past). More people will subscribe to topic/tag/remix feeds than feeds of actual people The killer app for RSS probably won't be geared towards the current ranks of bloggers and geeks. When RSS hits it big, it'll be because 'normal' people start using it - your Mom and Dad, Frank from Marketing, Jessie from Payroll, Dave from the local dairy. They won't be bloggers. They won't be interested in writing or podcasting or anything like that. All they'll want to do is track news and trends that are relevant to them.
Tools will evolve to let people easily set-up personalized searches for information relevant to them and subscribe to the results - using, you guessed it, RSS! Google will probably be the front-runner (see this video for a hint to the future - thanks twdanny for the reminder), PubSub will be another, current players like Bloglines and Technorati will be in amongst it, and who knows who else.
But don't get me wrong, conversations and people will still be important. It's just that if 'normal' people won't be bloggers (one of my assumptions), then the community aspects of the blogosphere won't be so important to them. This doesn't mean they won't subscribe to people - normal folk will find niche writers and podcasters and so on and subscribe to them. But it'll be far more convenient and useful for a lot of people to subscribe to topic/tag/remix feeds and trust the tools to filter the right information through to them, including content from niche bloggers.
On this theme, David Smith from Preoccupations wrote a post about the Google "nofollow" meme, which led him to comment:
"Whatever this does for spam, it's certainly got me thinking that the web is heading towards greater separateness, a position reinforced when I read (thanks, Ian!) that 'in the not too distant future, more people will subscribe to topic/tag/remix feeds than feeds of actual people' (Read/Write Web). Well, I'd rather seek out the conversations, thank you, and leave the computer puttering away in the background, dribbling a modest number of topic/tag feeds whose purpose will be severely subordinated to the primary thing that matters to me in my life, the relationships I have with other people."
I replied in David's blog that I didn't mean to imply that conversations or people are unimportant. On the contrary, topic/tag/remix feeds will make it even easier to find the conversations that matter to you and indeed you are more likely to meet new people and discover new points of view. Separateness is less of an issue with topic/tag/remix feeds, than it is without them. Topic/tag/remix feeds are more inclusive for all types of people (see this oldie but a goodie for more on this).
In 2005 in the blogosphere, RSS is a community-enabler. You find someone you like and you subscribe to them, and conversations ensue. What I'm suggesting is that in the future RSS will still be a community enabler, but by far its biggest use will be as a means to subscribe to personalised news and other information important to the lives of non-blogging people. Examples of the information I'm talking about: stocks, bank statements, weather, information needed for one's job, sports news, niche information (the long tail), lots of other things we can't predict yet ;-)