RealTime IT News

Do You Know What Podcasting Is?

Not sure of what the terms Podcasting , RSS or Phishing mean? You're not alone.

Though the tech news media regularly use those terms in stories, most Americans are not familiar with the digital audio file nature of Podcasting, the Web site syndication protocol RSS or the e-mail scam known as Phishing, according to a recent survey by Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Pew surveyed a sampling of 1,336 people over the phone between May 4 and June 7. Sixty-five percent of respondents indicated they weren't really sure what RSS is, and 26 percent said that they had never heard of the term.

Though RSS has been around since 1999 when Netscape first introduced RSS 0.9 (also known as RDF, rich description format), it has only been in the past two or three years that the technology has really taken off, thanks in no small part to the rise of blogs. (See internetnews.com's In Focus report RSS ScoreCard.

Podcasting faired poorly as well in Pew's study, with 64 percent noting that they weren't sure what the term meant; 23 percent said they had never heard of the term.

But it's not as if nobody knows about the tech. An earlier Pew study had also found that more six million American adults out of some 22 million owners of MP3 players had listened to a podcast.

Podcasting is actually one use of the RSS enclosure specification. With a podcast, the syndicated XML feed (RSS) includes an enclosure with an audio file that feed subscribers can listen to on their media device.

According to Pew's study, Phishing had the lowest level of understanding among a group of six security related technology terms that included Spam, Firewall, Spyware, Adware and Internet Cookies.

Fifty five percent were not really sure what the term Phishing meant and 15 percent had never heard of the term.

Phishing, or an e-mail hoax designed to dupe a person into handing over financial or other sensitive data, has been skyrocketing since at least April of 2004. Gartner estimates that it may have cost Americans as much as $1.2 billion in financial losses as early as 2003.

An April study from Pew found that 35 percent of e-mail users had received a phished e-mail, though only 2 percent reported that they took the bait.

Pew also found that 88 percent of respondents had a good idea of what the term Spam means. Firewall faired well at 78 percent understanding and Spyware had an identical (78 percent) level as well. Adware which is often confused with Spyware, but is different in that it is intended to track users for marketing purposes, and with the user's consent, recorded only a 52 percent level of understanding. Only 9 percent noted they had never heard of the term. Sixty-eight percent reported that they had a good idea of what the term "Internet cookies" means.

Across demographic lines, Pew found that women were less likely to be aware of the terms than men. Age also played a role, with younger users (age 18-29) having a better understanding than older (65+) users. College educated users were more aware than those with just High School and Broadband users trumped dial-up users as well.

According to Pew, the findings serve as a reminder that though journalists and industry may be quick to jump on the technology term bandwagon, the general public takes a little longer. "In addition, it is also clear that public awareness of emerging online threats like those posed by phishing scams takes a while to emerge," the Pew memo stated.