Tim Bray has a recent post entitled The Real Problem that opens up the quarterly debate on the biggest usability problem facing XML syndication technologies like RSS and Atom; there is no easy way for end users to discover or subscribe to a website's feed.

Tim writes

One-Click Subscription First of all, most people don’t know about feeds, and most that do don’t subscribe to them. Check out the comments to Dwight Silverman’s What’s Wrong with RSS? (By the way, if there were any doubt that the blogging phenomenon has legs, the fact that so many people read them even without the benefits of RSS should clear that up).

Here’s the truth: an orange “XML” sticker that produces gibberish when you click on it does not win friends and influence people. The notion that the general public is going to grok that you copy the URI and paste it into your feed-reader is just ridiculous.

But, as you may have noticed, the Web has a built-in solution for this. When you click on a link to a picture, it figures out what kind of picture and displays it. When you click on a link to a movie, it pops up your favorite movie player and shows it. When you click on a link to a PDF, you get a PDF viewer.

RSS should work like this; it never has, but it can, and it won’t be very hard. First, you have to twiddle your server so RSS is served up correctly, for example as application/rss+xml or application/atom+xml. If you don’t know what this means, don’t worry, the person who runs your web server can do it in five minutes.

Second, you either need to switch to Atom 1.0 or start using <atom:link rel="self"> in RSS. If our thought leaders actually stepped up and started shouting about this, pretty well the whole world could have one-click subscriptions by next summer, using well-established, highly-interoperable, wide-open standards.

As long as people expect one click subscription to depend on websites using the right icons, the right HTML and the right MIME types for their documents it won't become widespread. On the other hand, this debate is about to become moot anyway because every major web browser is going to have a [Subscribe to this website] button on it in a year or so. Firefox already has Live Bookmarks, there's Safari RSS for Mac OS X users and Internet Explorer 7 will have Web Feeds.

As far as I'm concerned, the one click subscription problem has already been solved. I guess that's why Dave Winer is now arguing about what to name the feature across different Web browsers. After all, RSS geeks must always have something to argue about. :)