Future of RSS

John Palfrey picks up on Susan Mernit‘s questions in what is becoming an important conversation about the accepted mores of RSS. He suggests two principles:

1) If a for-profit company aggregates RSS headlines and digests (presumably there’s a norm around how digested, but presume it’s something well short of a full feed, consistent across all sources aggregated), and presuming those who wish to opt-out can opt-out, licenses and other stated preferences are observed, it’s OK to make money on the aggregated content with ads served alongside the content in some fashion. (Perhaps My Yahoo! is a — presumably very profitable — example of such a model, or something along these lines, as My Yahoo! seems to render just headlines from the RSS feeds I’ve got loaded in there.) It reminds me of what Dave said back in December about how to make money online.

2) If a for-profit company aggregates full RSS feeds and makes money from the aggregation, it’s not enough to give the source of the feeds some links back or a hat-tip. If full RSS feeds are included in the aggregated content, then some form of revenue-sharing needs to be worked out to repatriate cash to the people creating the works. Such a model might be what Gather.com and others seem to be suggesting as the way forward (“It just seems fair that we share our advertising revenue with you based on the quality and popularity of the content you contribute on Gather.”) Such a model could make sense in the way that eBay and Google have made sense: serving as public online platforms on which other people could make a bit of money, while ensuring that the platform providers got enough, say, to go public and render the founders billionaires.

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