Once a nerd preserve, the Internet communication format known as Really Simple Syndication has acquired a key tech-buzz validation: a dedicated venture capital fund, RSS Investors. John Palfrey, executive director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, is one of the company’s principals.
Blogs and news sites are where most Web users may have noticed those little RSS tags. Is that enough to start building businesses on?
Blogs and news feeds vaulted RSS into the limelight, but they won’t be what sustains it. We’re already seeing a second generation of applications – Web services like del.icio.us, which shares bookmarks, and Flickr, the photo-posting site.
Will there be more mainstream applications?
People can already use RSS to track packages with UPS or follow eBay auctions. More generally, RSS is ideal for managing any kind of info that needs to be rapidly updated. Medical records are an obvious application, and corporate communications.
The rap on technologies like RSS is that we’ll end up with tunnel vision: personalization will let everyone tune out things they don’t want to see or hear.
My “home page” – though that probably won’t be the right metaphor – won’t necessarily exclude anything. What it will do is aggregate – say, a recommendations engine based on what my friends are reading or listening to. Merge RSS with social software and you start to have something very powerful.