Home Google Moves to Mainstream RSS With A Simple Name Change

Google Moves to Mainstream RSS With A Simple Name Change

For all its supposed simplicity, Really Simple Syndication or RSS has continued to confuse and intimidate millions of people online years after its introduction. What can be done to make RSS more mainstream? Google plans to roll out a small but simple feature that could go a long way. We wouldn’t be surprised to see every blog publishing service follow suit.

“Follow this blog” is a clear call to action and those words will soon grace the header of every blog on Blogger.com around the web. When users click that link they’ll be taken to either a tab on their Blogger dashboard, presumably if they have an account and are logged in, or be introduced to Google Reader, the company’s RSS reader. It’s a simple, brilliant plan and we wonder what took so long.

What it Will Look Like

As this new feature is rolled out over the coming weeks, it appears that users will be brought to three key screens.

Blogger users will now see a mini version of Google Reader in their dashboards.

Apologies for the blurry pic, that’s what Google posted.

Google Reader users will get a new folder for “blogs I’m following,” and new users will apparently be shown Common Craft’s fabulous 1 minute introduction to Google Reader.

Why It Matters

RSS is life and work changing technology. It’s what makes an ecosystem of blogs possible by lowering the investment required by readers to follow and support a larger number of blogs than they would visit manually. It’s what keeps those podcasts coming after you might have forgotten to download episode after episode. It makes search an ongoing practice instead of a one-off shot in the dark. RSS is huge, but the name alone intimidates many people who ought to be diving into it.

Surveys over the years have offered a wide range of estimates of the extent of mainstream RSS adoption. We know, though, that many many people do not ever use the technology.

“Follow” is clear language that we expect to go over well. It aims at the long held goal of getting people to use RSS without asking them to embrace the acronym. Update: Several people have argued since we posted this that “follow” will be far more clear to young users of social media sites like Facebook than to older users. Do you think “follow” is still too unclear? We think it’s pretty good, but let us know in comments or the poll on the right.

We expect that Blogger.com blogs will see a big increase in subscribers following this change and we would not be at all surprised if other blogging platforms, WordPress in particular, roll out “follow” language and links soon if the Google move is well received.

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