Yahoo sends emails to bloggers with RSS feeds saying, hey if you put this icon on your weblog you'll get more subscribers. It's true you will. Then Feedster says the same thing, and Bloglines, etc etc. Hey I did it too, back when Radio was pretty much the only show in town, you can see the icon to the right, if you click on it, it tries to open a page on your machine so you can subscribe to it. I could probably take the icon down by now, most Radio users probably are subscribed to Scripting News, since it is one of the defaults. But it's there for old time sake, for now.
Anyway, all those logos, when will it end? I can't imagine that Microsoft is far behind, and then someday soon CNN is going to figure out that they can have their own branded aggregator for their own users (call me if you want my help, I have some ideas about this) and then MSNBC will follow, and Fox, etc. Sheez even Best Buy and Circuit City will probably have a "Click here to subscribe to this in our aggregator" button before too long.
That's the problem.
Now there is a solution, but it would require a bit of cooperation, something the so-called RSS "market" is famous for not doing. (Hehe.) Since I'm widely hailed as the Father of RSS (bear with me please) I would volunteer to coordinate this, raise the money, write the software and run the server, and make all the data public.
1. Ask the leading vendors, for example, Bloglines, Yahoo, FeedDemon, Google, Microsoft, and publishers, AP, CNN, Reuters, NY Times, Boing Boing, etc to contribute financially to the project, and to agree to participate once it's up and running.
2. Hire Bryan Bell to design a really cool icon that says "Click here to subscribe to this site" without any brand names. The icon is linked to a server that has a confirmation dialog, adds a link to the user's OPML file, which is then available to the aggregator he or she uses. No trick here, the technology is tried and true. We did it in 2003 with feeds.scripting.com.
3. Develop the software and release it as open source, with a license that permits anyone to operate a competitive service. This guarantees that the result of the contributions in #1 are shared widely, that there is no proprietary technology involved, and should the system we set up falter, it would be easy to set up another.
4. All the data maintained by the server would also be available in XML, publicly, allowing a myriad of applications to be developed by anyone who wants to. Steve Gillmor would hail it as the first step towards attention.xml, and it would be, and it would be cool. Imagine the Friendster-like service you could develop from a large database of people's subscriptions.
Anyway that's it. It's possible to solve the problem. Eventually I'm sure we will try to do so once our sites are sporting 35 different "subcribe here" buttons. Maybe that's sooner than you think.
Please only comment here if you support the proposal, if you have a different approach, hold on to it, or better yet, read through the archive of various syndication mail lists to see if it's already been discussed. I'm sure the approach I outlined works. Now the question is does the community of vendors want to solve the problem? We'll find out soon enough. If you want to express support privately, please send me an email. If there's enough interest, say three or four vendors who want to support this, I'll probably go ahead and start the project. If not we can wait a few months and look at it again.# Posted by Dave Winer on 1/12/05; 7:57:31 AM - --