Richard McManus of RWW notes the continuing decline of RSS Readers, suggesting the market is largely dominated by Google and in disarray. Five years ago there was a perception that this was a hot category. An underlying standard was freeing up new atomized content and conversations that could be pulled and curated. Bloglines was acquired, and new clients were popping up weekly.
I believe an opportunity to cooperate beyond the syndication format, on standards for the basic usability of subscribing (the Coffee Cup problem) was missed at the time when it mattered. Innovation continued with the rise of Netvibes with the widget model, and Google Reader as a Bloglines 2.0. But then it stopped.
Last night I found myself looking at RWW’s list of the top 10 RSS Readers, and Tweeted: Why didn’t a single top RSS newsreader adapt into a Twitter client?
We all know that Twitter cannibalized RSS Reader habits with something simpler and social. And innovation happened elsewhere for aggregation with simple focused things like Techmeme. And that enterprise RSS innovation moved away from clients. But iGoogle and Netvibes widgets as Twitter clients were developed by third parties. Perhaps it was innovator’s dilemma on a compressed scale, but the Readers didn’t expand what could be read.
There is a ton of innovation in the Twitter client space. From Seesmic to Tweetie (I paid for it) to Brizzly (Jason Shellen created Google Reader). 107 clients on oneforty.com. There are some that bring baseline newsreading and conversations together, like Threadsy. With blogs adopting the Twitter API, the future will be reverse engineered.
Jeff Nolan and I usually spend our time disagreeing about politics and agreeing about tech, further demonstrating that smart people can be idiots. I can’t disagree with him that there is no RSS Reader market today. But I can surmise that if the original players in the market stopped thinking of it as software, and kept evolving it into something closer to FriendFeed for people who want less information — the network would be the market. And an opportunity remains.