Your grandmother doesn’t do HTTP and she doesn’t know from XHTML. You didn’t buy her a computer so she could access SMTP and IMAP and POP.
No, it took words like internet, web, and e-mail to help people who hadn’t been reading William Gibson make sense of this strange new world.
Bloggers and people who read weblogs and journalists and publishers whose websites emit RSS and Internet users who subscribe to syndicated RSS feeds and campaign workers who are designing custom community software tools around RSS frameworks all know that something big is emerging here.
But what do we call it? Do we call it RSS? That’s only half the story at best and it just isn’t catchy. Yes, for a brief period we made normal people wonder about how to say URL and we trained them to pronounce period ‘dot’, but even then people are more comfortable talking about web addresses and gravitated toward the metaphorical dotcom or maybe replaced the parentheses and hyphens in the phone numbers on their business cards with periods as a fashion statement.
Fact is, RSS sounds strange, requires explanation, and still doesn’t make any sense at first. (As Phil Wolff, I believe, asked recently. “What is XML and why is it orange?” But I’m not talking about the well known nonsensical-link/subscription-protocol debates – though that’s part of it.)
Syndication is an equally obscure concept and a moving target as terms-of-art go. Doc Searls just wrote up a nice etymology of syndic and its related terms, mostly having to do with selling in their original senses. He comes up with “notification” as the conceptual essence of RSS-type syndication formats and their uses (and reports that Steve Gillmor asserts that he’s still missing the bigger picture).
Meanwhile, Nova Spivack proposes a name for these more richly structured web communication channels we’re grooving to in
Every Revolution Needs a Name: The Metaweb…. I think I could get behind metaweb. It still leans to the geek a tad with its use of “meta-“, but at least he didn’t suggest calling it the memepunditzone or something like that.
(Speaking of, “at least is it’s not…” quips, back when I was complaining about how we’re stuck with the word blog, I tried to cheer myself up by suggestion that it could have been worse. The word could be “bloog.” Sure enough, there’s now a search engine called bloogz. I was talking to my old business partner about a blog-related business idea I had recently – codename, Houdini – and one thing we agreed was that the name of the thing would not have the word blog in it, or RSS, though it would deal with both.)
So, we need a new name for this stuff, if only some single word to refer to all of it. Doc still likes syndication, as he wrote in an earlier entry, the Syndies:
The act of syndication is a statement about the willingness of something to be known. I think that’s the key.
Notification, updates, syndication, metaweb. You name it.