Feed Thinking

Tom Watson went camping with his kids last weekend and came home to find 242 new items in Bloglines to read.

It’s a common occurrence.

I have given up on my feedreader for exactly that reason.

I had lunch with Nick Denton yesterday and he asked me what feedreader I use.  I told him that I use many of them for many reasons, but none of them for the purpose of reading all my feeds.

What I do these days, I told him, is use the blogroll on the right hand column to read the blogs I like.  I go down that list every day.  When I find myself skipping a blog on the list frequently, I take it off.

I use the linking from other blogs, delicious, digg, and other cool apps to find new stuff. Discovery is the big deal now and I have seen some other interesting discovery apps that will be coming soon.

I do have a database of feeds, which I keep in Bloglines. But to me that’s just a UI into an OPML file.  Every time I find a blog I like, I add it to Bloglines. Since I can export the OPML file, I’d really like to find an application that manages feeds as its sole utility leaving the reading part out.  I’d move to that pretty quickly.

If I find myself visiting a new blog frequently through my various blogreading activities, I’ll add it to my blogroll.

The other feedreaders I use are Newsgator (for mobile), MyYahoo (for feed headlines I need to see every time I start my browser), and iTunes (for audio and video content).

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because after finally getting around to reading and thinking about Microsoft’s vision for RSS in Longhorn, I think my kludged together approach happens to be the future of feeds.

Longhorn is going to offer a central repository of feeds.  Think of it like the printer list in Windows.  You add feeds like you add printers.  Then every app that runs on Longhorn has access to those feeds natively.

In that world, you don’t need to add feeds into iTunes, iTunes just looks at the feeds in Longhorn, figures out which ones are audio feeds, and gives you the option to get the audio files once or every time.  iTunes can also give you a UI to enter new feeds into the Longhorn repository.

Every app will be that way.  Outlook Calendar will look for feeds that have scheduling information and give you the option to add those events automatically to your calendar.  And Outlook Calendar will have a UI to enter new "schedule related" feeds into the Longhorn repository.

This is how I am using feeds already so this vision works great for me.  Feeds are becoming so present on the web that the idea of reading them centrally seems badly broken to me.  But managing them centrally and making them available broadly to whatever apps they can add value to makes a ton of sense to me.

So what does this mean for RSS investment opportunities? 

I haven’t solved that problem yet, but I am working on it.  I think it means that we need to "go up the stack" as they say and look for applications and services that can use the infrastructure that Microsoft is building into the operating system layer to add value.

I haven’t gotten beyond that.  But I’d be interested in talking to any entrepreneurs who have interesting ideas how to profit from this new world of feed ubiquity we are going to have soon.