Microsoft Corp. is looking to drop the RSS name from the upcoming Internet Explorer 7, a sign that the acronym used to described technology for distributing content on the web is on its way out in the consumer market.
The Redmond, Wash., company replaced the term with "web feeds" in IE 7 Beta 1, which was recently released to a select group of developers.
"Early customer research has shown that the term 'web feeds' is more easily understood and therefore this is how RSS capabilities are referred to in IE7 beta 1," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email sent this week. "Internet Explorer beta 1 is targeted at developers and we look forward to receiving feedback from this community."
And feedback is what Microsoft got. Among the most critical was developer Dave Winer, who objected to Microsoft using its power in the industry to change a name that's been long accepted in the developer community.
"If you're serious about working with a community of independent developers you need to build trust, and throwing your weight around stupidly is a good way to destroy trust and to keep developers far, far away from you," Winer wrote in his blog. "Pick your battles, Microsoft. This is a dumb one."
The posting sparked a flurry of responses from Microsoft developers. Mike Torres, lead program manager on MSN Spaces, Microsoft's blog-hosting service, pointed out that the company was joining others in dropping RSS. The Mozilla Foundation, for example, uses the term "Live Bookmarks" in its Firefox web browser.
"RSS stopped being used long ago," Torres said in his blog.
RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is the acronym of a format for distributing content updates from news sites, web logs and podcasters to aggregators called news readers. The format is based on extensible markup language, or XML.
Market researcher Nielsen/NetRatings found in a survey of blog readers released this week that 66 percent either did not understand RSS or had never heard of it. An additional 23 percent understood the technology, but did not use it.
Analyst Jon Gibs said consumers are less likely to click on a link marked RSS, because the majority of them don't know what it means, or care.
"In the best case scenario, consumers should have no idea that RSS exists," Gibs said. "It should be just another way for content to be delivered in a transparent way."
RSS technology should not even be identified in the user interface, but should just work under the covers when consumers decide to add a news feed to their personal homepage or news reader, Gibs said. Entertainment portal Yahoo Inc. takes this approach in its My Yahoo service.
If companies want consumers to use their RSS feeds, then they better think of a more attractive name, and get over the idea that "technology is out of the hands of consumers and is only in the hands of technology trendsetters," Gibs said.
Consumers, after all, is where the money is.