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RSS and The Little Orange Box

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
23 October 2005

RSS is going to be big.

I have been a true believer for a long time. And, apparently, the rest of the world is starting to get in line with this thinking. You can't turn around without hearing about blogs or RSS these days. These topics are no longer confined to niche news or trade media.

Over the coming months, I am going to start talking more and more about RSS - both its opportunities and its challenges.

To kick things off, let me focus in on one of its most interesting challenges. The little orange box. You know the one, it says XML or RSS. Microsoft has created quite an uproar as they've started talking about changing the icon yet again. Blogger Ed Bott was quoted in Microsoft Watch and hit the nail on the head. He pointed out that the real problem isn't the choice of button but: what happens when a novice user actually CLICKS on that button?

In case you haven't tried it, you generally get XML code. Since the average consumer can't tell XML code from a mainframe core dump, the only thing a consumer learns about the XML button is: DONT TOUCH IT!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem we need to address. And, even for sophisticated users as well as cutting edge marketers, the problem isn't any easier. What if the customer is using one of the web-based RSS readers that has its own little icon like +MyYahoo, +MyMSN, Bloglines, Pluck, etc., etc., etc? How many icons do you display? Which ones are most popular? How many are too many? You get the idea.

I've seen some discussions on approaches to unify this including some nice JavaScript used by companies trying to support multiple RSS readers but none of the approaches seem simple enough for novices. If any of you have ideas on this, please send them my way.

You'll see a lot more about my interest in RSS very shortly. In the mean time, I am super-excited about RSS and topics like this are near and dear to my heart.




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