RSS File Extension

There has always been a bit of talk on RSS and whether or not it will be widely accepted. Many people suggest that ‘RSS’ doesn’t seem to flow off the tongue too easily. Why not, though? I don’t think we’re giving people much credit. People can be taught anything. Heck, we’re all still typing www. aren’t we? Does anyone know why? Additionally, I hear people instruct me to visit an .html page all the time. Do they know what HTML means? Most likely not. Do they know what .html pages are? Of course they do. That’s all they need to know.

So why don’t you think people can be trained to subscribe to RSS? People were easily hooked on email. As Brian mentioned, the concept of opting-in is hardly revolutionary. So why couldn’t the same be done for RSS? With browsers (and Vista) integrating RSS don’t you think people will naturally figure out the benefits? I agree, it’s hard to re-train people. But, the way I see it, people are increasingly finding more information online. If they wanted to get an email for every cheap fare and recipe available out there they’d realize thats just too much email (in addition to all the spam that would come along with it). Their friend will then say something to the tune of: ‘oh, you don’t know how to subscribe to that stuff’?

So why don’t we have a .rss file extension? Oh wait, we do, it’s called .xml. When I visit…/Busines.xml I have a pretty good idea of what I’m about to open. In theory this file extension will open an XML file allow me and my browser/reader/whatever to open the feed the way I want. So why the hell doesn’t it work that way? I open a .html file in Firefox/IE and a website loads. I open a .doc file in Firefox/IE and a document loads. But when I open my .xml file I’m suddenly greeted with the most unfriendly looking collection of symbols, tags and words I’ve ever met. This is exactly why RSS hasn’t taken off yet. It lacks the consistency.

File extentions are there to create a certain level of consistency. In other words, when I open a .doc file I know I’m opening some sort of document. As a typical web user, when I open or how am I supposed to know what I’m visiting? When I see a page load with a bunch of nonsense like do I know what to do next? Of course not! So why isn’t my browser doing that for me? Why can’t I tell my friends to go to (or even better, .rss) and have the computer do what it’s always done: recognize the extension and do something useful with it.

It’s way too hard to visit a website, search for 10 minutes for their ‘RSS’ or ‘Feeds’ or ‘Subscription’ page, copy the location, paste it somewhere, etc. If my friends can tell me to visit a .php or .html page I should be able to ask them (just as easily) to visit my .xml or .rss feed. Feeds will never get past early adopters if we don’t create some sort of consistent way to treat the user. I really don’t think renaming RSS will do the trick.

[tags]rss, xml, feeds, syndication, blogging[/tags]