I’ve long been a big fan of RSS, and Google Reader continues to dominate a good chunk of my web working day. But though RSS plays a larger role on the web than most people realize, it has not quite reached the potential that many saw for it and has certainly eluded household name status.

Part of the reason for this has to do with the relatively non-intuitive way that RSS feeds are added to RSS readers for end users. And part of it is due to the rise of social media applications for information sharing (read: Twitter, Facebook) and the real time web.

So where does that leave things heading into 2010? The consensus of the blogosphere is, well, a muddled one.

ReadWriteWeb’s Richard MacManus reported late last month that the RSS Reader market is in disarray but then dialed back and returned with 5 Reasons Why RSS Readers Still Rock. Venture Chronicles bluntly states that “RSS as a standard has failed to evolve in ways that solve publisher problems.” And Louis Gray (rightly) points out that “the current discussion around RSS being less useful, or less important, than in years past, is flawed, period.”

With the web, one thing that we know is that things are forever changing, and usually more quickly as opposed to less. So it is with RSS as well, and one thing we know for sure is that the use of RSS will evolve based on patterns affecting the social web, the real time web, and so on.

Allen Stern’s smart takeaway is that the era of full RSS feeds may be ending because online publishers can now effectively promote themselves without “giving away” full content via RSS. Personally, as a heavy Google Reader user, this would not bother me all that much as I often click through to the stories that I take the time to read end-to-end.

Meanwhile, I still see huge potential and opportunity of Google Reader as a content sharing and social media tool. At its best, the shared and shared + note features offer the an ideal combination of “smart social network” and “smart content aggregator.” And no doubt Mother Google will have more in store for us this year.

Finally, it just occurred to me: if Google had acquired FriendFeed rather than Facebook, would the RSS landscape look significantly different today?

(this post originally appeared on Technorati)