This blog is rssCloud enabled. How would you know? You probably won’t. Should you care? Probably not today. Why did I bother? Well, you know that I like buttons-that-light-up. But seriously, there will be a benefit, as rssCloud and other real time web technologies pick up steam.
A definition: Use of the <cloud> tag — which has been an unused part of the RSS specification since 2001 — allows feed readers and aggregators (like Google Reader, although they don’t yet support rssCloud) to receive nearly instant notification when the feed is updated. Currently, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. So, if you were following this blog using an enabled feed reader (and there are very few of them today), you would get new material within seconds of me clicking the Publish button. For most people, their immediate response to this exciting new prospect is, “um…so?”
But there’s more at play here than first meets the eye. Here’s what Dave Winer, the father of RSS, has to say about the use of rssCloud by people like you and me:
The idea is to deliver news faster, without relying on a single company to do all the work.
Until now you could have one or the other, but not both.
You could have the news delivered via RSS, but if you wanted it fast you had to go to Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed.
The problem with going to a company is two-fold: 1. The company might not be able to handle it. 2. The company might screw with it.
The important idea here is that this method of delivering information is decentralized and beyond the control of a single company, just like the Internet itself. To learn more, take a listen to this Rebooting the News podcast. The first half of the show is Q&A about rssCloud.
Why real time?
It’s perfectly reasonable to be wondering if we should really be trying to speed up the flow of information. Don’t we already have too much coming at us too fast? However, it appears that the real time web is more than just faster communication, it’s a different form of communication. Writing in ReadWriteWeb, Ken Fromm says:
As with other recent waves of innovation (Web 2.0 and cloud computing, for example) there is no single definition of what the term “real-time Web” means. As a result, it is used as a catch-all phrase for a number of developments underway. At this point, we can identify that the real-time Web…
- is a new form of communication,
- creates a new body of content,
- is real time,
- is public and has an explicit social graph associated with it,
- carries an implicit model of federation.
…Another characteristic of the real-time Web is that it gives the world a new body of content, one that, unlike IM or email’s, is largely public. Plus the underlying APIs allow third parties to make use of the data through programs, thus extending the reach of the content.
The real time web may have the most impact on what we now call news reporting. With the public growing increasingly dissatisfied with traditional news outlets (as evidenced by their frightening decline in revenue), new sources of information are springing up online. Instead of being spoken down to by the mass media, who decide which stories are worthy of our attention, we can speak “across” to one another about anything that catches our interest. Some people will naturally do this better than others and they will gain a following.
Once we have this raging stream of information, we will need better tools for managing and making sense of it all. Those tools are in the future but, I suspect, not the far distant future. RssCloud (and pubsubhubbub, a related technology) are starting to work at a low level to direct the stream in such a way that we can all dip into it. I think we’ll be using it sooner, rather than later, which is why this blog is rssCloud enabled.
Streaming waters photo by Mikael Miettinen