Is RSS broken?

It’s barely broken into the mainstream, but some people are already worried that RSS is starting to crumble under the weight of its own popularity.

RSS is the technology that allows bloggers and other content providers to offer news feeds of their content. Readers can subscribe to these feeds with either desktop applications called aggegators or through services such as Bloglines. It’s a great way to keep up with news because instead of having to visit dozens of web sites one-by-one, the news comes to you when it happens. Yahoo is one of the bigger Net companies to embrace RSS, offering feeds of its news stories, among other things. It’s even highlighting RSS feeds in its search results.

So what’s the problem? Well, the aggregagtors work by periodically checking the web sites for updates. Some of these aggregators hit the web sites every few minutes for updates. Others are programmed to check for updates at the top of every hour. And as the number of people using aggregators grows, the more popular content providers are starting to bombarded with hits. So many, that it’s slowing down their servers and eating up costly bandwith.

The issue was underscored this month, when Microsoft announced that it would trim the content in the feeds from its bloggers because of bandwith costs. After a hue and cry went up from the blogging community, Microsoft relented and restored the full feeds.

The problem persists, though. RSS was ahead of its time when it was invented in the late 90s, and it’s traveled a rocky road to get to where it is today. Will it be cut off at the knees just as it shoots out of the starting gate.

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