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September 8th, 2009

The Move to Make RSS Real-Time

Over the long weekend there was a major upgrade made to RSS that brings it fully in-line with what people are increasingly expecting from the real-time web, a conversation that for the most part is dominated by micro-blogging status networks like Twitter, Facebook and others.

Support for RSS Cloud has now been enabled on all WordPress.com-hosted blogs and there’s a plug-in for self-hosted WordPress blogs. RSS Cloud is a technology that has been around for a while that, to my understanding, enables RSS readers that support it to get push notifications from a blog that there’s an update. Unfortunately there are only two readers at this time that support RSS Cloud: River2 and LazyFeed but that’s sure to change considering the sheer volume of blogs that now have this technology enabled.

All of this is very interesting, but what does it mean?

It means that RSS just got, in a serious way, in the real-time game. Despite the fact that it does two dozen things that status networks and real-time search just can’t, RSS was being marginalized by those who believe that faster is always better because it took, as Marshall Kirkpatrick admits, 15 minutes to an hour for readers to get new posts. This does away with that by pushing new posts to the readers with the same speed they’re published.

There may be the temptation to dismiss this as inconsequential because it’s just WordPress and it’s just a couple of RSS readers. But that would be a mistake since WordPress represents a not-inconsequential portion of the blog publishing world. And with that many blogs now featuring this technology it won’t be long until other platforms adopt it as well and every one that does means more readers will feel they need to add their support.

For communicators and marketers that means, as support on both the publishing and aggregation ends expands, we can more fully use RSS as a way to stay on top of the conversation as it happens. If someone posts something about a client it will get sent to our reader almost immediately. That’s huge. More fully-featured monitoring solutions are in many cases essential but having RSS feeds that are setup for keywords or key blogs that are important to a client project is always a good idea as a backstop.

I’ll admit that I get overly geeked about RSS issues, but that’s because I think it’s one of the most important technologies in the new media age, solving the distribution problem for blogs and eventually changing the way content was distributed. That’s why the RSS Cloud announcement by WordPress is so exciting, because it’s the first major upgrade to RSS that begins to adapt it to what media expectations are now.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Media

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