I just noticed the BBC.co.uk website is promoting RSS on its homepage. Not just at the footer but within prime real estate.  It me got me thinking...

According to the Nielsen//Netratings April 2005 data the BBC site (all properties, including the news site) ranks as number 5 in the UK.

United Kingdom: Top 10 Parent Companies
Month of April 2005
Home Panel
Microsoft 16,079 71.53 02:18:22
Google 12,728 56.62 00:23:17
Yahoo! 10,096 44.91 00:56:37
eBay 8,844 39.34 02:09:34
BBC 8,320 37.01 00:37:14
Time Warner 6,992 31.10 02:53:22
Amazon 5,310 23.62 00:18:01
Wanadoo 4,644 20.66 00:22:03
Ask Jeeves 4,464 19.86 00:09:27
RealNetworks 4,314 19.19 00:28:07

I think this is significant for the reasons Percy gives in a comment to a previous post of mine:

"Right now, I think that RSS is still a little geeky, in that you have to do some geeky things to figure out feeds, etc.

However, the concept itself is so convenient that you can't help but tell others about it. I feel that it's a matter of time before RSS becomes something everyone starts to use."

With the likes of the BBC site are promoting RSS (they seem to be the only one of the above top 10 UK to do so pro-actively - a British company corporation surrounded by US brands) - a destination attracting geeks and non-geeks alike, I don't think it be long before RSS becomes a non-geek term and ubiquitous.

Richard MacManus, in his summary of the Jupiter RSS consumption March 2005 research report, cites what I consider to be a significant number (my bold):

"Back to the report... the use of RSS newsreaders paled into comparison with the search toolbar (62% home, 27% work). So all in all, RSS newsreaders in both desktop and web variety are still very much a minority tool - 12% of consumers use a variety of RSS newsreader, according to this report. But JupiterResearch notes:

"While the overall number of consumers who use RSS readers is small, this market is growing due to a wide variety of choice in terms of content and sources, along with the increased awareness of the weblog phenomenon by mainstream consumers." "

12%? Now one research study doesn't make a summer, but wow! 12% is huge. Another number comes from Pew's Internet Research report published in February (the surveys themselves were conducted in November 2004):

"5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online;"

Assuming the Jupiter number is overstating reality and Pew's is understating, and we assume the average of these two data points is the closer to reality, we end up with 8.5% of today's internet population using RSS readers (either as a web-based application or local client application).  If we take the 235m US & UK internet population as of March 2005 (according to World Internet Usage Stats) to be reasonably accurate that makes at total of 20m RSS users in US & UK alone. If we use the total world internet population of figure 888.6m and assume 8.5% of the total world internet population is using RSS the number comes in at 75.3m.

2005                            Internet Users        RSS Users (at 8.5%)
US + UK         235m                   19.97m
World              888.6m                 75.3m

20 million in the US & UK and 75m RSS users around the world (I suspect the RSS-using population in US is the highest % among all countries).  These are big numbers...to put the 75m number into perspective, the total internet population in
1997 was around 76m.  What about the future?  Worldwide internet population grew 142% between 2000-2005.  If this internet population growth is sustained over the next five years the number of RSS users by 2010 could be 182 million (8.5% of 2.1 billion) representing about the size of the entire internet population in July 1999.  Given the amount of attention RSS is increasingly receiving, 8.5% of the internet population using RSS by 2010 could well be on the low side of estimates.  If the number becomes 15% by 2010, this gets to a humongous 332.5 million people using RSS to consume all sorts of content.

Of course, these (conservative?) numbers are pure conjecture, yet the reasonably probable number of RSS users today - 75m - is already significant, and will become more so as RSS gets written into the fabric of the internet.