I've been following what the 3 big Internet companies have been doing with RSS and I largely agree with Dave Winer's recent assessment:
"Yahoo is dashing in front, with Microsoft close behind. Why isn't Google in the race?"
Yahoo has been by far the most proactive company of the 3 this year. Microsoft has shown glimpses of what they're plotting - my favourite so far was the start.com prototype RSS Aggregator integrated with MSN Search.
But Google hasn't done anything with their Blogger unit and they seem reluctant to add RSS functionality to their product line - e.g. Google News and indeed the Google search engine ('subscribe to this search', anyone?) OK, there's a hint of an RSS Aggregator in a new feature being tested for Gmail - Web Clips, it's called. Maybe that's a sign of things to come.
Microsoft's RSS Plans
Today I found out a bit more about Microsoft and RSS. Evan Williams blogged a dinner he and 7 other bloggers had with Jim Allchin, a major Microsoft honcho who is responsible for Windows, .NET and "new media technology". Robert Scoble set up the dinner. I found this bit from Evan to be especially interesting:
"One of Jim's repeated statements was that he wanted to bring "this stuff" to the
masses. I asked for clarification because, in a lot of Microsoft's talk, they speak of
RSS and blogging as the same thing. He agreed they weren't the same thing, and it seemed
to be RSS he was talking about implementing in a variety of ways throughout Windows
(e.g., built-in readers, automatic feed generation from a variety of lists...). While
Microsoft does have a blogging tool, that's MSN—not Jim's department."
This is another hint that Microsoft will build in RSS functionality as part of the plumbing for their next OS (Longhorn). It was clear from the start.com prototypes too that Microsoft's strategy with RSS is to integrate integrate integrate. They want RSS to be baked into their products and particularly their OS, so you don't need to download web apps or subscribe to web services like Bloglines.
Yahoo on the other hand is more about utilizing RSS as a media and content enabler - giving My Yahoo users more content to choose from, letting Yahoo News users dive into their niches, enabling mobile users to access content via RSS on their phone, etc.
Google's RSS Plans: Show Me The Money?
So what's Google up to with RSS? Or Atom, as the case may be. If I was to guess, I'd say they want to harness RSS. Most of their huge take of advertising revenue comes to them via webpages - their own pages, plus external webpages that use Google Adsense. So Google wants to ensure that revenue doesn't get siphoned off if they make content available via RSS.
It's interesting that the Gmail 'Web Clips' feature mentioned above currently has adverts alternating with the content (according to Ev). So Google is actively experimenting with ways to monetize RSS.
Once Google has gotten a handle on the revenue-generation options, then they'll commit to RSS and roll it out to the users.