Follow the Money (to RSS)

A new $100 million venture capital fund has been launched to promote startups in RSS, or Really Simple Syndication — a technology for delivering electronic subscriptions directly to a user’s inbox. So reports Tom Foremski, who leads the business reporting team at SiliconValleyWatcher.

In an item dated June 30, Foremski, a veteran tech journalist formerly with the Financial Times, wrote: “This reminds me of years ago when Kleiner Perkins launched a $100m Java fund in 1996. It is milestone for RSS and its use.”

His piece offers a quick introduction to the principals, John Palfrey, director of an Internet think-tank at Harvard, and Jim Moore, an authority on business ecosystems. Palfrey blogged about his move into investing. Foremski’s report included a quote in which Moore likened the Internet to “a mind constituted of millions of inter-networked neurons.” Moore went on to say, “the participants in this exchange of information are capable of astonishingly rapid and sometimes subtle community consciousness and action. The evolution of these communities has already had a profound effect on the media, professions and enterprises.”

RSS has long been on my list of things to learn more about. Today I looked around for primers on both the technology and its implications. The implications are clear. RSS drops the newspaper on the driveway — electronically speaking. J.D. Lasica gives an explanation with examples in a 2003 article in Online Journalism Review.

On the technical I chose a few primers that seemed reasonably current and readily comprehensible.

The Christian Science Monitor offers a tutorial that starts with the basics: how-to sign up for a news reader (the technology that the user employes to request and receive RSS feeds.

Web publishers who want to use RSS to deliver content should read the Utah State Government tutorial compiled by Ray Matthews. Written for a non-tech audience, it is full of links to the technical information needed to add RSS publishing to a site. Danny Sullivan put together a good how-to in April 2003 for Search Engine Watch.

So is RSS the next big thing? More likely it’s the current big thing and I just haven’t wrapped my mind around it. This report by Foremski, a friend and colleague for years, tells me it’s time to catch up.

(Note: I’m taking off for the July 4th weekend, so the next time I’ll be in this space will be Tuesday.)

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media