At the Evernote conference last week we had a session where we talked about the future of "content consumption," which to me means the future of RSS. The room was fairly well packed, and I got a chance to ask some questions of the audience and then explain where I thought we were at.
1. Asked for a show of hands, how many people were using Google Reader this time last year? Almost every hand goes up. Obviously no one is using it now.
2. I asked how many people, today, are using Feedly. Most of the hands go up. Not quite as dominant as Google Reader, but close. Obviously this is not a scientific sample, but it does correspond, mostly, to what I thought was happening in the market.
I said that it had been about ten years since any innovation had happened in RSS. It's obvious why. Any new idea had to get through Google, and they weren't interested. So nothing happened.
It seems to me that now we're in much the same situation, though it is somewhat better, because Feedly has no other products to distract them. But they have to welcome competition in order for there to be a market of new ideas. It's possible that they could view RSS as a captive market, but that wouldn't interest me, and it isn't something I'd support. I'd keep on using my own River Of News software to aggregate (my hand didn't go up either time, btw).
1. There is one highly desirable feature, and if Feedly supported it, it would open up lots of new possibilities. The feature is this -- allow people to subscribe to OPML subscription lists.
2. This would enable entrepreneurs to build services that stood alongside Feedly and provide specialized aggregators. You wouldn't have to switch from Feedly to try out a new approach. You could use both at the same time.
3. Subscription managers could come about. There could be a non-profit that offered a one-click way to subscribe to a site, and have that subscription be available to any service you wanted to give it to.
4. Experts could manage lists of feeds the way stock analysts manage mutual funds. This is perhaps the most exciting new possibility.
5. It would also force any newcomers to be open in this way, so would prevent a replay of the Google Reader ownership of the RSS market from ever happening again.
1. Raise a lot of money.
2. Open the market with the dynamic OPML feature.
3. Invest in almost anything that starts moving in this market.
4. Be an enabler of huge change and profit from being at the center of it.
5. I've always suggested this strategy for dominant players. Even though Feedly has less than 20 people, they're well on their way to that future.
6. RSS has always had the potential to a crazy, innovative, decentralized market. I'd love to see it happen.
7. However, I'm not holding my breath because it would be virtually unprecedented in the tech industry.