I have been meaning to post about this whitepaper from Yahoo and Ipsos Insight for ages. It came up again in a meeting I had this morning and so has prompted me to look at it again. It came out last month and looks at how RSS and podcasting is crossing into the mainstream.
In brief, it shows that whilst only 4% of users knowingly use RSS, 27% use RSS without knowing it. Even better, the demographics of this userbase is similar to that of the average Internet user – a sure sign that if we can position the technology correctly RSS will not be for the tech savvy.
The first step in this for me is to get rid of the various names for RSS (whether it is Live Bookmarks, Atom, web feeds, feeds and so on) and replace it with one word. I dont particularly care what it is – some people say an acronym like RSS or XML is not a good idea – XML is definitly not a good idea as it is also so many other things. RSS could come to mean something to the average user (maybe like mp3 did to some extent or abs in the motor industry) but I think that RSS is a fundamental way of moving information around the web and there are many more examples of words or brands doing the job better. What it does do is make the user make a connection with it quicker. The average user seeing an orange button with the letter RSS are not intuitively going to know what it does. The word "feed" works better but is not perfect. Subscribe works well for me as it tells you what it is doing. I have a feeling though there are circumstances where this might not always be the case. I need to think on that a bit more. The other option is to have some sort of icon which represents the current standard. People globally can then associate with a standard regardless of the text that happens to accompany it. So what icon should we use?