More From the Echo Chamber

Posted on 11/18/2004 in misc

want to respond to Scoble's response to my comments.

My point was that RSS is not the next big thing. It's a thing certainly, but it's not going to change the world. Scoble disagrees, and to make his case he cites computer history, listing BBS, AOL, Prodigy, the Mac, mouse, and menu driven interface, email, the Web, IM, blogging, and for the future, Podcasting.

Podcasting? Is he kidding? Podcasting will never grow beyond niche status because it isn't solving a problem that many people have. As far as I can tell, it isn't solving a problem at all. Give me one good reason why tens of millions of people will start podcasting. "Adam Curry is doing it" is not going to cut it.

Email solved a problem, it enabled asynchronous communication. IM solved a problem, it enabled synchronous communication via text. The web enabled cheap one to many publishing, blog software made it easier to do, personal computers made all kinds of things possible that weren't possible before.

Even within his examples though, there are degrees. Email was revolutionary, IM less so. Has anybody built a profitable business on IM? It's a feature of other services like AOL, MSN, or the Zultys VoIP server. The web made it possible for private people and businesses to publish cheaply. Many wanted to do that. A subset needed a way to make it easier, thus Blogger solved a problem, and expanded the market for web sites in the process, as easier to do brought more people in.

RSS solves a minor problem for a smallish subset of people. Anybody remember Pointcast? Wired magazine proclaimed the Web was dead and push technology would rule, way back in 1997. The only thing Pointcast killed was corporate LANS, and the credibility of Wired. Fast forward to 2004. RSS sort of looks like Pointcast, eh? Relevant content when you want it, versus going out and searching the web for it. In 1997, nobody had a problem with too much info yet, that plus bad technology doomed Pointcast. Today, some people do have a need for an easier way to track web data. Heck, Scoble is trying to keep up with over 1000 RSS feeds. RSS clearly solves a problem, but it's not a problem 80% of the Internet using population has. It's probably more like 20%, which is why I say RSS is not some huge earth shattering revolution.

It's evolutionary, not revolutionary.

To take a more recent example, how about Social Networking? Remember all the hype in the press about Friendster and all the social networking apps. When is the last time you heard one mentioned? Are they interesting? Somewhat. Are they useful to some people? I'm sure they are. Are they revolutionizing how we do business? Uh, no.

The geeks are predictive sometimes, and sometimes they aren't. RSS solves a problem for tech geeks and maybe for information geeks. Podcasting solves a problem for....maybe sight impaired geeks? It's simple Sales 101. It the world is going to use your mousetrap, it has to do a better job of catching mice, and a lot of people have to want to catch mice. I don't see that degree of need in any problem that RSS solves today.

Of course, there is always the possibility that somebody will come up with something new that does hit that threshold....that is what makes this business so much fun.

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