I've been following the RSS section on Stack Overflow for the last few months. It's been really interesting to see the kinds of questions developers have, and it's also been gratifying to see that they usually get good advice from the developers assembled there. It's a better environment than the contentious discussions that used to happen on the syndication mail lists.
An answer to a fairly common question, written by Derek Park, would have been what I would have said if people were listening, back when Atom launched. I'll just quote it here and say that I mostly concur.
"The fundamental thing that the Atom creators didn't understand (and that the Atom supporters still don't understand), is that Atom isn't somehow separate from RSS. There's this idea that RSS fractured, and that somehow Atom fixes that problem. But it doesn't. Atom is just another RSS splinter. A new name doesn't change the fact that it's just one more standard competing to do the same job, a job for which any of the competing standards are sufficient.
"No one outside a fairly small group of people care at all which standard is used. They just want it to work. Atom, RSS 2.0, RSS 1.0, RSS 401(k), whatever. As long as it works, the users are happy. The RSS 'brand' very much defines the entire feed category, though, so on the rare occasion that someone does know enough to choose, they will tend to choose RSS, because it's got 'the name.' They will also tend to choose RSS 2.0, because it's got the bigger number.
"RSS, and especially RSS 2.0, are very much entrenched in the feed 'industry.' Atom hasn't taken off because it doesn't bring much except a new name. Why switch away from RSS when it works just fine? And why even bother using Atom on new projects if RSS is sufficient? Switching to a new feed format mostly means extra time spent learning the new format."
Before anyone suggests that I'm looking for a debate, I am not. River2 supports Atom, as does all my other RSS-processing software. Atom is here to stay. But it didn't solve any problems, it just added another feed format that developers have to support.