The Really Sad State of Syndication

[RSS icon]

Syndication has the potential to make browsing more selective and efficient. Prominent web sites have been offering feeds for several years, and many aggregators exist, so Why hasn’t syndication caught on?

Lack of Browser Support

RSS use remains elusive to most users. Modern browser RSS implementations (Firefox 1.5, Safari 2, IE7 beta) simply apply traditional web mechanics to feeds – bookmarks and site-by-site display. This offers little advantage over traditional browsing.

An ideal browser allows the user to intuitively subscribe to available feeds with a single click. An user is more apt to subscribe to a site’s feed if it doesn’t involve typing, or cutting and pasting, and if the feed links do something more useful than displaying a raw XML tree.

Odds are good that Microsoft’s upcoming Windows RSS Platform, included with Internet Explorer 7, will accelerate RSS adoption. The API, comprised of a Common Feed List, Download Engine, and Feed Store, is available to all applications. One-click IE subscriptions are thus available to any application that wants to use them – Outlook, tickers, screen savers, etc. Once applications begin to leverage this functionality, the market for such applications will broaden.

Information Overload

Even with intuitive subscriptions in place, it can quickly become difficult to determine which headlines warrant further investigation. Even a single feed can provide more items than are practical to review item-by-item.

Web desktops, such as netvibes,, and are intuitive enough, but they cannot efficiently aggregate more than a handful of sites due to their one-site-per-window layout. On the opposite end of the spectrum, an unfiltered river of news can efficiently display numerous links, but it is easy to get swept away in such a river.

Web aggregators, such as Tailrank and memeorandum are beginning to address the problem of prioritization with a combination of user feedback and metadata related to link popularity and content. Desktop applications can apply traditional filtering techniques, such as manual rules or some form of Bayesian filtering, as used in spam filters.


Syndication must overcome the hurdles of inconvenience and overindulgence. Windows RSS Platform may provide a critical mass of capable clients that usher in a new era of interoperability among RSS applications. One-click subscriptions, combined with filtering that reliably prioritizes items relevant to the user will allow the information consumer to process more data, and with a higher signal-to-noise ratio.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

19 Responses to “The Really Sad State of Syndication”

  1. JonnyRo says:

    The promise of RSS has never really been delivered for me, mostly because some sites are still using the very stupid excerpt posting method where they only put a part of the article with a link to the full copy.

    Maybe this was the reader I was using at the time doing this, but i’m fairly sure they wanted you to go to their site so you could view their ads, and thus used the mini posts as drawing tools.

    My ideal would be an electronic newspaper with full content feeds.

    BTW, thanks for the info on, I use it fairly consistently now, outpacing my use of the customized start page.

  2. nathan says:

    I agree with your complaint about excerpt feeds –'s and's feeds are horribly vague, for instance. This very blog unintentionally gives summary feeds despite the enabled full feed – a problem I intend to address soon. Rather than using feeds to entice, it is better to provide compelling content and feeds.

    A virtual paper is not a bad idea. I might use an front end, or even a straight-up columnar newspaper analogue.

  3. JonnyRo says:

    I enjoy reading stuff in columnar format. There are a few internet newspapers that do this.

    The International Herald Tribune does a fairly decent job of organizing content on their main page while still retaining ads.

    I also use FlashBlock to keep flash adverts at bay, so maybe i’m not getting the full effect.

  4. JonnyRo says:

    Also,, has what I feel a superior columnar layout. It is almost everything I could have dreamed of in terms of layout.

    He’s using a modified b2evolution setup with multiple blogs feeding the main page. Marco’s fairly hardcore.

  5. promo codes for argos 2012

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  6. web Site says:

    Hi! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give
    you a shout out from New Caney Texas! Just wanted to say
    keep up the excellent job!

  7. real estate colombia

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  8. Full Survey says:

    Full Survey

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  9. freestanding tub With deck mount Faucet

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog


    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  11. online coupon codes for kohls 30

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  12. top rated golf schools

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  13. certified phlebotomy

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog


    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  15. john lewis jazz pianist

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  16. Anik Singal Publish Academy

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  17. situs judi says:

    situs judi

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  18. buy youtube views cheap

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan’s Blog

  19. Culver City Massage Therapy

    The Really Sad State of Syndication « Nathan's Blog

Leave a Reply

Are you human? Answer this: *