Last night in San Francisco, Yahoo introduced two new RSS products, integrating an RSS reader directly into the Yahoo Mail Beta and expanding their Alerts to include RSS feeds. You can read about the announcement on TechCrunch.
Yahoo has "gotten" RSS for some time, having introduced one of the first easy-to-integrate browser-based RSS feed readers (and certainly, one of the first that I used). Recently, Microsoft introduced its own RSS-on-the-glass play via Live beta site, which provided for some very cool drag-and-drop portal building capabilities using RSS feeds. I also recently got a sneek peak of the RSS capabilities in the Windows Vista preview, which seemed to make RSS even more idiot proof.
I have a meeting later today with my Web architecture team to discuss how we can ramp up our own RSS implementation, and it has become very clear very quickly in my early explorations that good RSS is as much a cultural and usability transformation as it is an architectural one.
What I think we're seeing with RSS is the transformation of the click-to-find Web experience that dominated in Web One-Point-Oh, where the "hunting and gathering" experience defined how people used the Web. You need something, you go out and find it, either navigating through search engines or laboriously traversing a series of links on a single site or across sites.
RSS is the Domino's Pizza Delivery model, where people can subscribe specifically to the information they seek using RSS and have it delivered to them at their convenience (some call it the "TiVo" of the Internet...I think that doesn't do credence to the real power of RSS, but if it'll help the cause, so be it). While RSS can provide for a more passive Web consuming experience, it can also be more empowering, as it provides for an intelligence that didn't quite exist in Web 1.0
For example, suppose I want to monitor the mentions of a particular competitor -- to be nice, I'll call them the "Idget Widget Corporation" -- but don't have time to go out and constantly surf the Web to keep up with them. Using Technorati Watchlists or keyword monitoring in my own RSS reader, FeedDemon, I'm able to keep a 50K foot view on any number of specific topics, letting the technology do the work by gathering the most appropriate bits out of the ether (in this case, mentions of "Idget Widget" mentioned anywhere on sites that are RSS-enabled), then presenting it to me in a summary, easy-to-consume fashion.
Extrapolate this idea to any variety of things you might need to monitor -- discount deals on Buy.Com...lowered airfares on Travelocity...bids on eBay -- and you can start to better understand why the RSS hype.