I recently wrote a little story for Extreme iPod about iPodder, a set of open source scripts for automatically downloading audio content from RSS 2.0 feeds to an iPod, via iTunes. A quick glance back at the iPodder site, and I find that this thing is exploding – it seems like every tech pundit on the planet has written about it, from my eWeek colleague Steve Gillmor through to the always-wonderful Andrew Orlowski (buy me a pint next time you’re in London Andrew!). I love it when a technology suddenly gets hot.
But in some of the comments on Slashdot (which linked to my story), there was some profound headshaking and “so what”-ing about the whole idea. iPodder, after all, is just a pretty simple script. There are already half a dozen ways of recording any audio stream you like from the Web, and then scripting it to add it to iTunes isn’t all that hard.
The difference, of course, is in the potential ease of use. Suddenly, audio becomes a push medium too, just in the way that RSS has already turned text into a push medium. And, because you can use this for video just as easily as audio, that, too, become a medium you can simply subscribe to for updates. No fuss, no mess, no bother.
Consider this: suppose the BBC were to make all its radio programming, which is already available via time-shifted stream, available as MP3 via RSS. Or its radio news broadcasts. Or anything in the upcoming creative archive. If it was sensible, it could even use the ability of some iPodder-based software, such as iPodderX, to use BitTorrent instead of directly downloading an MP3 from its own servers. Of course, thanks to its own rights-related issues, the BBC probably wouldn’t be able to do that… but there were would be nothing to stop someone creating an RSS feed for Torrent files of its programs, at least in theory…