WordPress Goes Real-time With RSS Cloud Support

Ever wish your RSS reader worked more like a Twitter client? Or even FriendFeed, where updates just appear in real-time? Well, that idea has been gaining ground for some time, and it just got a whole lot more appealing now that WordPress has announced support for RSS Cloud.

RSS Cloud takes advantage of the cloud element in the RSS 2.0 specification. Actually cloud has been there since RSS 0.92, but no one paid much attention to it until Twitter and others ushered in the idea of a real-time web. The cloud element is used to deliver push notifications to your feed reader.

That’s essentially the reverse of how RSS readers work right now. At the moment, most popular RSS readers poll sites to see when they have new content. Another, slightly better method is to wait for a ping from your blog to let the RSS reader know when new content is available. But as WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg notes in the announcement, ‘getting every ping in the world is a lot of work… RSS Cloud effectively allows any client to register to get pings for only the stuff they’re interested in.’

The result is that new posts from your favorite blogs arrive much faster using the RSS Cloud method. As Marshall Kirkpatrick writes over at ReadWriteWeb, the difference in wait times is like ‘the difference between checking your e-mail every once in awhile and using a Blackberry to get new e-mails pushed to you as soon as they arrive.’

Sounds good, no? More news, delivered faster. Well, the bad news is that there’s really only one feed reader that currently supports RSS Cloud — Dave Winer’s River2. However, with WordPress now implementing the cloud element in its feeds, some 50 million posts a week are potentially accessible to cloud-enabled feed readers, which should be more than enough to tip the balance in RSS Cloud’s favor.

Of course there are some competing specifications, like pubsubhubbub or FriendFeed’s SUP proposal, which both do something similar to enable push updates.

WordPress has already said that its working on other ways of pushing notifications to news reader, including pubsubhubbub, so while you may have to wait a while before your favorite reader enables support for RSS Cloud and others, the WordPress announcement has certainly added incentive. And, hopefully, it will give RSS readers a much needed kick in butt — let’s face it, RSS readers aren’t exactly hotbeds of innovation right now.

Indeed Dave Winer is trying to get popular Twitter clients to support RSS Cloud. If they do, they could well end up supplanting RSS readers as the way most people get their news.

We’ll just have to stop calling them Twitter clients and start calling them what they should be referred to as: news clients.

(Via Webmonkey.)

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