explosion 11.22.2005, 2:10 PM
posted by lisa lynch
A Nov. 18 post on Adam Green's Darwinian Web makes the claim that the web will "explode" (does he mean implode?) over the next year. According to Green, RSS feeds will render many websites obsolete:
The explosion I am talking about is the shifting of a website's content from internal to external. Instead of a website being a "place" where data "is" and other sites "point" to, a website will be a source of data that is in many external databases, including Google. Why "go" to a website when all of its content has already been absorbed and remixed into the collective datastream.
Does anyone agree with Green? Will feeds bring about the restructuring of "the way content is distributed, valued and consumed?" More on this here.
Posted by lisa lynch on November 22, 2005 2:10 PM
tags: Libraries, Search and the Web, Online, Publishing, Broadcast, and the Press, RSS, blogging, blogs, darwin, darwinism, google, internet, singularity, syndication, web, xml
dave munger on November 22, 2005 3:08 PM:
I don't use RSS feeds very often. My problem with them is that they neglect the visual. Part of the experience of reading a blog for me is the visual experience of visiting the site. Not only does it help me understand the mind of the author, but it also helps me develop a visual means of following the argument.
RSS strips out the visual elements (except the occasional illustration), which for me, makes for a less rewarding reading experience.
But maybe I'm just stuck in the "old way" of thinking. Somehow, I don't think so -- after all, isn't "visual" thinking the "new" way of thinking?
ben vershbow on November 22, 2005 4:47 PM:
I commented earlier today about data being taken hostage, in that case by pay services and web-based software. I see what Dave means about the visual, though most blogs are not terribly well designed. But even then, you do get a sense of encountering an individual, and for the blogs I like most, that is an important factor.
There is, however, something to be said for fluidity of reading in a feed aggregator (Bob was talking about this earlier). When you switch from blog to blog the overall organization of information is not interrupted. So in the end it may not be either/or. There might be an inner circle of sites whose individuality and "place"-ness you value, and then a larger second circle that you rely on solely as a matter-of-fact source of information. These you don't mind reading through feeds. In fact you might not read them at all if not for this streamlining apparatus.
It does seem a bit Kurzweilian/the-singularity-is-near to predict an explosion of the web in the course of the next year. We in the fishbowl need to remember that a vast majority of people don't even know what RSS is. But it's a compelling if not somewhat disturbing thought that these feeds are perhaps creating a back-end web that Google and the other search engines are quietly harvesting. Google's blog search isn't very impressive now, but I suppose I can envision a time not too far off where mega feed aggregators are the main way we get at content, with the wall between news and blogs, not to mention the idea of individual sites, all but erased.
walt on November 22, 2005 8:34 PM:
"Does anyone agree with Dave"? I'm sure many people do; after all, any projection of disruptive universal change is accepted by those who believe life works that way.
I use RSS a lot. I also use individual sites a lot. I read from the screen too much. I also read from books and magazines a lot (but not quite enough).
For most of us, now (and I believe in the future), that's the way life and the web both work: multiple "modalities" (if you must) that suit our needs and preferences. So, I believe, for most of us, Dave's fundamentally wrong.
Christian Wach on November 23, 2005 8:54 AM:
I agree with Dave's assessment that the way we define what a website "is" will change - but not with the sense of negativity that TFA is shot through with. Why should we care if the current understanding of what constitutes a "website" changes? When did we reach consensus with regard to its form?
As for RSS feeds being non-visual... that is merely a symptom of the way in which a particular feed has been configured. For a text-based blog, that may be case - but there is no reason why authors cannot add image tags to an item. Depending on your aggregator, these will be displayed as part of the item.
Furthermore, videoblogging/podcasting aggregators such as FireANT, DTV or iTunes subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds with enclosures. This form of subscription via RSS is primarily visual (or auditory) since the app auto-downloads the file that the enclosure references. Most of the time, the accompanying text is cursory in the extreme - perhaps just a link or some keywords.
I guess what I'm saying is that there seems to me to be no reason to worry that the canonical form of the website may change as a result of these developments - indeed, it could be high time that we re-think that form. I, for one, would like to see Douglas Adams' observation that websites are modelled on the sales brochure become obsolete.
K.G. Schneider on November 26, 2005 9:45 PM:
"We in the fishbowl need to remember that a vast majority of people don't even know what RSS is."
True, but I believe RSS will have officially taken off when a lot of people are using it without knowing or caring what RSS is. I manage a site with a feed that has over 11,000 readers, with about 400 more every week. Some of them are very RSS-savvy, while others got on board because we told them they could read our newsletter this clever new way--just follow our instructions and everything will be fine, we said, and they believed us. And that's happening while we're still in the dark ages of clunky crank-up-the-model-T RSS usage.
My guess is the first people to use a refrigerator knew what freon was, too, and the first drivers were the mechanics that built the cars. That's not a bad thing, but eventually along come the people in the middle who build in usability and design enhancements. Regarding the formatting of RSS, some aggregators already support inline images and a limited amount of text formatting. I wouldn't be surprised to see aggregator "skins" emerge to give a set of feeds the reader's preferred view, much as magazines and newspapers promote a look and feel for their own brand.