If you're only going to read one sentence of this post and have the remotest interest in RSS, then take this away with you: the number of RSS users in the UK and US is now at a staggering 72.8 million...worldwide this is 275 million (see estimate details below).

Various research studies relating to RSS awareness and usage data have varied quite a bit over the last couple of years. The latest numbers provided through a study sponsored by Yahoo (PDF) lends a little further weight to a couple of views and data points I've shared before around RSS.

(thanks to Tommy Williams for the ping on the study. To everybody else: I should point out this is a US study, so not necessarily representative of the global internet population as whole - remember folks, there is a world outside the good ol' US of A!).

So, on to the data...

RSS awareness

The first Yahoo study data point (PDF) that stands out for me:

Awareness of RSS is quite low among Internet users. 12% of users are aware of RSS, and 4% have knowingly used RSS.

Source: Yahoo (PDF)

These numbers are on the higher side of others I've seen - the highest survey data for usage I've seen has been 12% - this Yahoo data is saying awareness is as 12%.  (Either the awareness number has grown dramatically in last 3-6 months or the methodology of the various research studies accounts for this jump. Probably a bit of both). This is a significant jump.

RSS use

The next data is killer:

27% of Internet users consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages (e.g., My Yahoo!, My MSN) without knowing that RSS is the enabling technology.

This usage number (total of 31%) is around three times the highest RSS use data I've seen from other reports.  The average of three major studies puts RSS usage at around 8.5%, but these were users who say they were aware they were using RSS.  The jump (from 8.5% to 31%!) comes from sourcing new data - RSS usage by users who are unaware that they are using RSS.  This is big deal

Source: Yahoo (PDF)

How many RSS users?

Some context: in 1997 the total number internet users, worldwide, was 76m.   According to Yahoo's latest study (PDF), I've estimated the number of RSS users in the UK and US is at a staggering 72.8 million (includes users who don't realise they using RSS and those who do (total is 31%).  This is over three times my previous estimate. I've updated the numbers I crunched in June and published here:

rss users uk, us and worldwide 2005

  My estimate table notes:

  • Numbers in millions.
  • Based on numbers I crunched in June
  • Internet users data srouce: ECT (2005) and Nua Internet (1997)
  • UK & US users of RSS is at 72.8m...UK has a similar internet use profile to US and since I'm from the UK and living in the US I wanted to include both :-).
  • Worldwide users of RSS is at 275m - my confidence in these ww RSS numbers starts to drop here compared to the UK & US numbers as I don't have equivalent Yahoo ww RSS data at hand, but I think it gives a useful indicator as to to where we are at with RSS adoption globally.

David Sifry said the following a while ago, and I agree: Invisibility is the key to mass adoption of RSS, and if you love RSS, you have to agree too.

Ubiquitous RSS is almost upon us.


Update:

"Staggering if you think about it that way. Dunno if it holds up, but the logic makes sense. This is big and only getting bigger. And Alex makes the great point that this research is US only and that we really need data outside the US (My Yahoo! RSS is already in over 15 countries, but the data doesn’t cover that)"

"When I read Yahoo's survey I was struck by the same figure, that being that 27% of all Internet users were using RSS without knowing it. Thinking it was too high I concluded that it was just 27% of the 6 to 10% of net users I understood to be using RSS. But I'm not sure how you ask someone how they use RSS if they do not know what it is. Make any sense? Maybe Alex is on to something.

Follow up: ZDNet is supporting Alex's interpretation that 27% of Internet users are using RSS."