RSS: The Ultimate Opt-In Solution

by David Sklar

I want to receive marketing, billing, and other corporate communications via RSS instead of e-mail.

When a company sends me an e-mail message, it is subject to all of the annoyingness of e-mail: spam filtering, drowning in my inbox (unless I spend the time to filter it somewhere), etc. Plus, I either have to send my e-mail address off into the wilderness, hoping it doesn't become spambait or go to the trouble to set up a new alias for each commercial purpose.

If, instead, I could just add a personalized feed into my feed reader, we (me and the company) would both be better off: I can trust the source of the message, so I don't need to do any spam filtering. I can retrieve the feed over an SSL connection, so it's a feasible way to provide sensitive data like a bank statement or monthly bill. The company I'm getting the feed from knows when my feed is retrieved so it has some rough metrics for determining that I've actually received the data in the feed.

A nice bonus would be if there was a way for the feed publisher to provide advisory information to my feed reader on how often to check for updates -- the hypothetical feed for my monthly phone bill doesn't need to be refreshed every few hours. Once a day is ample.

So, how about it, airlines, banks, utility companies, credit card companies, and all other corporate behemoths that are, I'm sure, exemplary custodians of my personal and financial data? Instead of (ok, in addition to, I'll be realistic) asking for my e-mail address, give me a URL like:

to plug into my feed reader. I promise I'll read everything you send me!

What companies are doing this already?


2004-09-30 22:13:59
Advisory interval
There already is support for this in at least several versions of RSS (I don't know if it's in all of them) and Atom.
2004-10-01 07:32:58
Advisory interval
Yeah, RSS 1.0 has a syndication module that specifies updatePeriod, updateFrequency and updateBase. RSS 2.0 has a TTL element which would need to be dynamically generated to make sure that the TTL = NextUpdateTime - Now if you wanted to have it arrive on a specific day (like the start of the next billing period, for example).
2004-10-03 14:35:33
Tools like MailBucket will let you move some of your less sensitive correspondence out of your inbox and into your RSS reader, but these are currently secured only by obscurity.
2004-10-29 18:14:05
Have a look at Bloglines
Bloglines has the exact feature you are after with email feeds. It generates an email address for you to subscribe with, and creates a feed for all the messages sent to that email address. What if an address starts getting spammed? No problems, just delete the feed.