The war on RSS

If the lords of the Internet have their way, the days of RSS are numbered.

Apple

John Gruber was right, when pointing to Dan Frakes’ review of the Mail app in Mountain Lion, to highlight the fact that the application drops support for RSS (he calls it an “interesting omission”, which is both correct and understated). It is indeed the most interesting aspect of the review, even though it’s buried at the bottom of the article; Along with the mention that RSS support appears to also be removed from Safari.

[side note: here is the correct link for the Safari information; Dan Frakes’ article mistakenly points to a staging server only available to MacWorld employees.]

It’s not just John Gruber and I who think that’s significant. The disappearance of RSS is pretty much the topic of every comment on the two MacWorld articles (for Mail and Safari). That’s heartening. It’s going to take a lot of agitation to reverse the trend for RSS.

The Mountain Lion setback, assuming it’s not reversed before the OS ships, is just the last of many blows to RSS.

Twitter

Every twitter profile used to exhibit an RSS icon with the URL of a feed containing the user’s tweets. It’s gone. Don’t assume that’s just the result of a minimalist design because (a) the design is not minimalist and (b) the feed URL is also gone from the page metadata.

The RSS feeds still exist (mine is http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/18518601.rss) but to find them you have to know the userid of the user. In other words, knowing that my twitter username is @vambenepe is not sufficient, you have to know that the userid for @vambenepe is 18518601. Which is not something that you can find on my profile page. Unless, that is, you are willing to wade through the HTML source and look for this element:

<div data-user-id="18518601" data-screen-name="vambenepe">

If you know the Twitter API you can retrieve the RSS URL that way, but neither that nor the HTML source method is usable for most people.

That’s too bad. Before I signed up for Twitter, I simply subscribed to the RSS feeds of a few Twitter users. It got me hooked. Obviously, Twitter doesn’t see much value in this anymore. I suspect that they may even see a negative value, a leak in their monetization strategy.

[Updated on 2013/3/1: Unsurprisingly, Twitter is pulling the plug on RSS/Atom entirely.]

Firefox

It used to be that if any page advertised an RSS feed in its metadata, Firefox would show an RSS icon in the address bar to call your attention to it and let you subscribe in your favorite newsreader. At some point, between Firefox 3 and Firefox 10, this disappeared. Now, you have to launch the “view page info” pop-up and click on “feeds” to see them listed. Or look for “subscribe to this page” in the “bookmarks” menu. Neither is hard, but the discoverability of the feeds is diminished. That’s especially unfortunate in the case of sites that don’t look like blogs but go the extra mile of offering relevant feeds. It makes discovering these harder.

Google

Google has done a lot for RSS, but as a result it has put itself in position to kill it, either accidentally or on purpose. Google Reader is a nice tool, but, just like there has not been any new webmail after GMail, there hasn’t been any new hosted feed reader after Google Reader.

If Google closed GMail (or removed email support from it), email would survive as a communication mechanism (removing email from GMail is hard to imagine today, but keep in mind that Google’s survival doesn’t require GMail but they appear to consider it a matter of life or death for Google+ to succeed). If, on the other hand, Google closed Reader, would RSS survive? Doubtful. And Google has already tweaked Reader to benefit Google+. Not, for now, in a way that harms its RSS support. But whatever Google+ needs from Reader, Google+ will get.

[Updated 2013/3/13: Adios Google Reader. But I’m now a Google employee and won’t comment further.]

As far as the Chrome browser is concerned, I can’t find a way to have it acknowledge the presence of feeds in a page at all. Unlike Firefox, not even “view page info” shows them; It appears that the only way is to look for the feed URLs in the HTML source.

Facebook

I don’t use Facebook, but for the benefit of this blog post I did some actual research and logged into my account there. I looked for a feed on a friend’s page. None in sight. Unlike Twitter, who started with a very open philosophy, I’m guessing Facebook never supported feeds so it’s probably not a regression in their case. Just a confirmation that no help should be expected from that side.

[update: in fact, Facebook used to offer RSS and killed it too.]

Not looking good for RSS

The good news is that there’s at least one thing that Facebook, Apple, Twitter and (to a lesser extent so far) Google seem to agree on. The bad news is that it’s that RSS, one of the beacons of openness on the internet, is the enemy.

[side note: The RSS/Atom question is irrelevant in this context and I purposedly didn’t mention Atom to not confuse things. If anyone who’s shunning RSS tells you that if it wasn’t for the RSS/Atom confusion they’d be happy to use a standard syndication format, they’re pulling your leg; same thing if they say that syndication is “too hard for users”.]

70 Comments

Filed under Apple, Big picture, Everything, Facebook, Google, Protocols, Social networks, Specs, Standards, Twitter

70 Responses to The war on RSS

  1. Joakim Sandstroem

    Maybe it’s because mail clients and browsers aren’t rss feed readers. Google Reader and the Reeder app is.
    I don’t think blogs and news sites would remove rss support.

  2. graham

    i’ve got to admit that i <3 RSS and still use RSS for twitter & fb and google reader on my mobile is my preferred way of filtering content (i star stuff to read later on ipad/laptop). as limited as rss is, without it we *have* to have g+, fb and twitter accounts to consume that data that we can currently consume through a single interface. that means we have to suffer inconsistent interfaces from various vendors across devices, for example, when I read through twitter i favourite tweets that i want to come back to later, as i did with this link but facebook doesn't have a similar feature. I can like something and search my profile later to find it but it favours the content creator as i have to tell everyone about it and penalises the consumer because they don't get a curated list of content to consume on a more suitable device (bbc videos is the first thing that comes to mind – flash only so doesn't work on iphone).

    the other problem with the disappearance of rss is that content creators now have to hook their content up to all of the networks to expose their work. a small blogger may need wordpress to create the content and twitter, fb and g+ to get it out there whereas wordpress has been publishing their rss for free and sending pingbacks to publicise it since it's inception.

    i understand why the powers that be wish to see the back of rss, it is in their interest to create walled gardens, but we'll all be much worse off for it. there is no way another standard like rss, or IMAP/SMTP/POP3 could ever gain a foothold anymore, there are two many vendors trying to lock people in to avoid competition rather than embrace it.

  3. while feeds definitely have a tough time in a world where all major players are trying to build their own ecosystems that expose as little information as possible to the outside, there are still many areas where feeds are being used. and even the walled garden players use them, when they serve their needs, such as apple building its whole podcast ecosystem on top of feeds. most users probably don’t know that podcasts are just feeds, but because they are, i don’t have to use itunes to consume them. if apple were doing it today, i am sure they would use a less open and somehow access-controlled approach, to make it harder for non-itunes clients to access podcasts.

  4. “As far as the Chrome browser is concerned, I can’t find a way to have it acknowledge the presence of feeds in a page at all.”

    *looks at the nice little RSS icon Chromium’s location bar*

    You haven’t mentioned browser extensions, like https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/nlbjncdgjeocebhnmkbbbdekmmmcbfjd
    (incidentally, made by Google).

    • @vambenepe

      Marius, I’m not saying there’s no way (yes you can get Chromium or some browser extension), just that it’s harder than it used to be for a regular people to use RSS. Out of the box support for RSS (At least detecting the feeds) was a included in all major Web browsers. Until Google came out with Chrome.

      • I agree with your point here, RSS is a second class citizen in Chrome, and the whole article is great.

        I believe the one thing that made it possible for me to switch to Chrome was an extension mimicking Firefox’s Live Bookmarks, called RSS Live Links (linked in my name). It also works for discovering feeds and the author has had to work around many limitations and bugs in Chrome, while minimal support for RSS (say, as an extension API) would likely make it much easier.

        However, I believe Google has (had?) a lot invested in RSS: Blogger, FeedProxy, Reader, Widgets and iGoogle. Groups, Code and Gmail have (had?) feeds. Are these also being reduced/hidden?

      • mario

        For one, Opera does have a central RSS icon. It can utilize its built-in Mail app for viewing feeds, so a no-brainer there.

        But Safari supposedly still has RSS support too. http://www.apple.com/safari/features.html – So I’d presume it’s really just a usability blunder in Firefox and Chrome.

        (Nice tip on Twitter though. Could never be bothered, and gave up when I couldn’t find any RSS feed. To me it always seemed like walled garden or anti-open-web syndrome.)

    • Lucas

      On the ‘no new reader after GReader’ thing.

      https://www.newsblur.com/ <– This is what I use. It's pretty amazing. It even takes PubSubHubbub feeds and subscribes to them if available then gives you updates in real time.

      There are many good RSS readers.

  5. linkrdr is a new hosted RSS reader that aims to challenge Google’s dominance in the RSS reader space. Instead of just blindly serving up your RSS feed entries, it inspects their content and judges how interesting it likely is to you. Check it out.

  6. Richard

    http://newsblur.com is another great hosted RSS reader.
    R.

  7. James

    Facebook has had a few backflips on RSS (and I agree it seems like it’s glory days are behind it), but currently you can get RSS feeds for pages in two public lookups (ie: you don’t need to be authenticated)

    Find the ID based on the username using the graph API:
    http://graph.facebook.com/Oracle

    Use the ID of the page as a feed:
    http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?format=rss20&id=113897213765

  8. lisnake

    I switched to newsblur.com after years using Google Reader

  9. Pit

    What is an alternative to RSS/Atom?

  10. I think this is more about failing RSS applications than it is about RSS.

    Lifehacker ran a poll this week asking if people still use RSS. They got about 20,000 responses and almost everyone said yes.

    Twitter gives you a tiny quip and an obscured URL. That’s information-empty. I need to click on that link to find out if I want to bother reading the piece. That is a waste of my time.

  11. Very good analysis.

    But I think we should change the way we look at RSS. Here’s a short piece I wrote about it http://apas.gr/rss-twitter/

  12. greenlight

    You don’t need the userid for the RSS url http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/vambenepe.rss

  13. “If, on the other hand, Google closed Reader, would RSS survive? Doubtful.”

    I am pretty sure this assumption is wrong and I am pretty sure that the closing of Reader will see the opening of a dozen other services that will try to fill the gap.

    RSS is not alive because we can easily subscribe to a lot of feeds. (hint: we can’t) It is alive because it’s a nice and useful technology.

  14. Christian Weiske

    The RSS button in Firefox has been removed with version 4, because only 3% of all users ever clicked it: http://www.webmonkey.com/2011/01/firefox-4-ditches-the-rss-button-heres-how-to-get-it-back/

  15. AP²

    there hasn’t been any new hosted feed reader after Google Reader.

    Newsblur might disagree with you on that; as far as I know, the service has grown quite a lot for its young age.

  16. It’s not that bad with Twitter (not that obvious either): http://evgeny-goldin.com/blog/twitter-rss-feeds/. There is an RSS feed for users, lists and queries, they just hide it in the API refs.

  17. “Google reader RSS Subscriber” extension (http://goo.gl/pIKkz) provides a nice RSS icon in Chrome when feed is found.

  18. Most non-techies don’t understand how to use a RSS feed. I think that’s why it maybe removed, as those that know how to use it, will know how to modify the toolbar in FF or scour a site or page source for the feed url. I really hope sites continue to generate RSS feeds though, I use them a lot.

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  20. no name

    fact: stackoverflow.com support rss, for each tag, at the buttom of the page you can find the rss feed.

    if the programming community consumes it, then the programming comunity will produce it.

  21. Eric

    I use RSS every day. If there’s a blog that doesn’t offer RSS (or it’s just broken), it’s a blog that I don’t read!

    It’s also easy to monitize, you just thrown an ad on each entry. I’ve found it doesn’t bother me (as in, I don’t go removing feeds).

    But I’m kind of wierd, I showed up late to the rss game and now I host my own feed reader (feed on feeds by Steve Minutillo, wonderful software, easy to enhance).

    I suspect what big companies don’t like about RSS is that it’s harder to track? Even then, why not just track with an image? I dunno. It makes reading people’s blogs and news way easier for me.

  22. Allow me to disagree — and I’m very happy to be able to do so. RSS is alive and well; it just completely failed to get adopted by the mainstream. I don’t think a lot of people would even be interested in subscribing to Twitter feeds and Facebook walls via RSS, so it’s not a big deal that these services have been phasing out support for it. At the same time, a lot of applications, some of them now becoming very popular with mainstream users, make extensive use of RSS behind the scenes (like Flipboard, or now Google Currents).

    RSS is doing just fine, it’s just ended up in another place than what we all were hoping for.

    H.

  23. I think the biggest problem with RSS is that you divorce the content from the context. Both from the publisher’s standpoint, when their ads aren’t being served or they decide to truncate their RSS feed so they can get ad revenue back from click-through, and from the reader’s standpoint, where a common lamentation in moving to RSS is that you no longer get to read the original site regularly.

    I solved the “Original site” problem by building the original site into NewsBlur — http://www.newsblur.com.

    The other big issue with RSS is that there are too many stories with a low signal-to-noise ratio. I built in filtering and highlighting into Newsblur to address that concern. And it’s a completely separate backend from Google Reader.

    And now the common refrain is that people use social channels (Twitter/FB/Tumblr) to find links and news. So I just built that into NewsBlur with shared stories. You can sign up to be a part of the private beta at http://dev.newsblur.com. I’ll send out invites to anybody who signs up.

    Consuming the web through RSS can be problematic for both publishers and readers. I’m addressing the big three issues – context, relevancy, and surfacing – with a strong commitment to both readers and publishers. Let me know what else you would expect to see in your ideal reading setup, and chances are, RSS offers the foundation to build it.

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  25. On the other hand, look at Flipboard and its knock-offs/competitors that are getting a lot of users and press attention. Those wouldn’t exist without RSS.

  26. I stared subscribing to RSS through Google Reader because that was the only way to subscribe to online publications. Now I suppose I could follow a publication on Twitter but I could also possibly be getting unwanted white noise from the account holder.

    Google Reader is very basic. You can “star” items for attention but it’s not even possible to tag items ala delicious style. And no, if Google did pull the rug on its Reader I doubt whether RSS would survive in any meaningful way.

    I’m interested in why RSS has failed. To me it seems an ideal format for keeping tabs on dozens or hundreds of different online publications.

    Is it because the RSS readers have proven to not be up to scratch or is it because the format itself is fundamentally flawed?

  27. Globeadue

    I use RSS throughout the day, and frankly would waste a lot of hours not having it or never checking up on websites….
    I just wish Google would put more innovation into google reader.

  28. Interesting & surprising observations. In my mind, RSS should be as popular as ever, so it seems backwards that so much support for it is being dropped. My favorite iPad app is Flipboard, hands-down, and RSS drives it. Such a great reading experience.

  29. I think the biggest hurdle for RSS is getting the non-technically inclined to understand it.

    They see this orange “speaker-looking” icon and don’t give it a second thought.

  30. If you use Facebook or Tweeter chances are you don’t have the mental capacity to use RSS, so in the end it doesn’t matter.
    Here the thoughts of an insider: http://twitter.com/#!/thekatz/status/189762825110028288
    Unfortunately his computations are off by a few points – you can’t have negative averages.

    I use Opera’s excellent RSS feeds feature and it works out great. It’s very convenient to have your feeds delivered directly in your browser, as opposed to having to check periodically a web application or another dedicated client.

  31. Developer Dude

    I don’t use Twitter, FaceBook, FireFox or Google Reader, so I am not particularly worried about any omissions they make (or may make) regarding RSS.

    I DO use Mail in OSX (Lion and Snow Leopard) on my Macs. The RSS reader has never worked correctly in Mail (at least not in the past 4 years that I had used it). It sometimes gets the feeds, and then stops and starts again. Sometimes it only gets the feeds I have subbed to if I am using that part of Mail. Often I have to restart Mail to get it to get the feeds again – then it goes for a week or two before stopping. When it has stopped it goes back and gets feed articles I already have – sometimes going back to 2007 (before I started using it) and then I have to delete thousands of articles. I notice that some of the articles are a few days to a week old, but they were not retrieved earlier.

    I have started to just mark those I want to keep or read as “flagged” and then I can just delete most of the old unflagged articles it retreives. There are other interesting UI quirks in it too – which don’t show up in the email portion of the app.

    But in short, Mail as an RSS reader is buggy. I suspect some of what I see may be problems with the feeds themselves, but I think it is mostly Mail. I know lots of other users have complained about the reader part of the app – many of them have the same problems I have. No response from Apple or any improvements, so it isn’t surprising that they may remove it – and I won’t be sad to see it go; it will make me get off my doofus and get a real reader which Apple can’t seem to make.

  32. IMHO companies prefer APIs as a means of content distribution because it keeps distribution more firmly under their control. They can see who is looking at what and how often, which even if not monetized directly, is important for understanding what’s happening with their business. They can also throttle access, shut of the tap completely, etc. All of which I’m sure can be done in RSS, but is awkward to do (i.e.: feedburner as an intermediary) as RSS was by design open. RSS, therefore isn’t specifically a leak in monetization, but rather a leak in distribution.

  33. In case you (or others) haven’t read it, Winer’s thoughts that are apropos: http://scripting.com/stories/2010/09/13/howToRebootRss.html

  34. Facebook also allowed you to have your RSS feed automatically published to a fan page. Unfortunately they also killed this feature. Viva the walled gardens!

  35. In FireFox you can get the feed icon back in the navigation toolbar by right clicking on the toolbar and choosing “customize”.
    Find it in the list and drag and drop it where you want. Done :)

  36. Well, how else are we supposed to keep up with our favorite news websites? Should everyone get twitter and post all new blogposts on there? Or a Google+ page or something similar? I’m assuming nobody wants to receive a newsletter.

  37. Don’t miss that WordPress.com promotes the subscription by mail or IM. RSS it’s becoming a l33t thing.

  38. There is more then just those few sites.
    RSS is really ideal to follow the world from your smartphone.
    Most blogs support it

    And as for twitter, thats more for too old people who want to be young, but real young people dont use it. They dont need a “hey hear me”.

  39. Achal

    Firefox has an easier way. It’s still hidden, but

    Firefox button –> Options –> Customize/Toolbar Layout –> Drag the RSS button into the UI

  40. I don’t know that there is a WAR on RSS at this point, but rather RSS functionality (consistent alerts to new content) is just being done in a couple of different ways for users that didn’t exist when RSS was first launched.

    The first is more content publication platforms have better APIs that can be hit with a get request (for those aggregating content).

    Second, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr (and others) have begun to aggregate things for us and feed it to us that way. Users check them all the time. Many blogs (including my own) cross-post to Twitter and Facebook so if you read it on RSS you get it a 3rd time. I think people have just chosen to go the route that allows them to engage (comment back, receive replies, etc) rather than the route that is just consumption(RSS) that requires you to head to a site.

    I will still continue to use RSS and I think the standard is definitely valuable, but if Flipboard one day decides to just pull from any blog with the right APIs and aggregate that way I don’t think I’d be too up in arms about it.

    I do agree to your point that we need to ensure there is an open syndication capability so that people don’t lose the ability to monitor a large number of pages, but I think the market will take care of that gap if it exists.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  41. I think that the way news feeds are delivered is changing, and RSS isn’t the answer. I used to be an avid user of Google Reader, but my feeds there have been left unread for weeks now. I switched to Prismatic, a new service that grabs stories based on what links are retweeted by people you follow. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this, as people start becoming more interested in curated news feeds, rather than just grabbing prepared feeds from third-party sources.

  42. It’s too bad only Google knows the actual traffic to Google Reader.

  43. Mike Gale

    I see this as part of a great dumbing down that is going on. It seems there are those who want to turn everybody into consumers. That is people who take what they are given and happy to have little influence. There are also a lot who are happy to be consumers.

    In the earlier days of the Interwebs this was less so. In the mass market days it’s more so.

    Any company whose only / majority income stream is based on you clicking adverts, is not going to like a smart machine readable format. With that you have the potential to make your own decisions, find stuff that actually suits you and avoid exposure to adverts that you’ll never click on.

    Look at the companies you mention. Does empowering users this way suit their goals. If it doesn’t you can figure out the corporate strategy for yourself.

    A correction: Facebook does indeed have feeds. They tend to be a little out of date, but they are there. Essential I feel for FB users who live in RSS as much as they can. It’s worth finding and using them if you use RSS.

    Google also does some very powerful RSS feeds. A true service. Great.

    As the majority of users are fairly new at the game, I’m hoping that they will tend toward an RSS using, “I’m more in charge” approach as time goes on. There may also be a rising tide of dislike against advertising (Recent PEW survey). The smart strategists will factor that in.

  44. Good post, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Fascinating to see the different angles from which this is all happening.

    Gruber has mentioned before that there’s actually a splintering effect when technology is typically expected to go obsolete. Even more than a war on RSS, this is a war on the software monoliths. Design is gaining a foothold and booting out the nonessentials. Speaking conversely to the web browser, dedicated RSS reader apps even expose features that are just awkward clutter and will probably disappear. But anyway, the technology we have been creating and using in the early days of the web is just doing what the entire web is doing–splintering and walking into loving arms in little niches here and there.

    Gruber’s HTML / HTTP “2 webs” line of thinking is pretty solid as a zoomed-out road map for the web, right down to these individually very useful technologies that seem to be disappearing. I would say QR codes are another example of a useful technology that has its place and will definitely be declared dead many times in the near future, without actually dying to those who need it most.

    It is interesting and helpful to see RSS documentation grouped in with API documentation, though. I would like to see some sort of standard for API documentation emerge, similar in visibility to robots.txt, to allow managers of a site or service to publish information on interacting with whatever data is available. 3rd party applications could then show possible means of interacting with that data that would have otherwise been difficult for end users to discern. Why should I have to google “Twitter API” or “Service-name-here API” all the time?

    I’m also pretty excited to see those gigantic RSS icons disappear from even the oldest web 2.0 blogs. :-)

  45. Three Pipe Problem

    Counterpoint – Lifehacker just ran a poll of its readers and something like 90% of its users still actively use RSS. I have heard similar figures for professional journalists. It may be that the powers have be have reached the conclusion that RSS will never go mainstream, and yet it seems pretty firmly ensconced just below the surface.

  46. I’ve been seeing the same thing and expressed my frustration on Twitter a few times: https://twitter.com/#!/OatBits/status/179569746495287297 and https://twitter.com/#!/OatBits/status/179571775863144448

    Getting an RSS-feed on a Youtube channel is as hard as getting it on a Twitter account. I find myself searching for the same solutions a few times every month…

    “Google has already tweaked Reader to benefit Google+. Not, for now, in a way that harms its RSS support.”

    I don’t really agree. Google removed one of the best parts of Google Reader (in favor of Google+): Sharing. One could argue that this isn’t a part of the RSS support, but in the way it was solved it was the best way of sharing a the content from an rss-feed.

    And no, the sharing capabilities that exists on Google+ today is far from as elegant as what we use to have on Google Reader. For example: Sharing flash video from somewhere else than Youtube and vimeo, sharing pictures directly from Reader (now only generates a link to the URL, and not a post with the picture inside it), sharing text/news/blog posts/etc (again only a link, not the content itself is shared), and so on…

  47. qfwqfw

    I noticed this trend as well (especially regarding Twitter and Chrome), and am concerned about it. My feeds (I’m recommending newsblur.com) is my daily filter for finding out about new things.

    It seems that there is little I can do as a user of a site that does drops RSS support. After all, I (usually) don’t pay (directly) for content and could get my information somewhere else. Any bright ideas on this?

    Thank you for the article, I’m glad to see people writing about this.

  48. bas

    In firefox: view -> toolbars -> customize -> drag rss button to your favorite location :)

  49. Martin Focazio

    Before you jump all over me, I like RSS, use RSS readers and will miss RSS when it’s gone.

    But…

    Two simple reasons why RSS is dying:

    1. Civillians (that is people who use Facebook etc. and don’t really care about technology) never really used RSS. In all of my mass-market work over the years we never saw either demand nor, when offered, adoption of the RSS feed model by ordinary people. I know it’s hard to imagine that RSS is “too hard” when it’s not really that hard to set up a reader and feeds…but in a world where people don’t (and soon won’t need to) understand files vs. folders vs. programs, an RSS reader is just too nerdy.

    2. Money. While various ads are sometimes stuffed awkwardly into my RSS feeds, on the professional side (as in my work that sometimes involves online advertising) they never really worked and the performance – as compared to other options like search or – heaven forbid – web site display – was just never even close. People who are consuming content via RSS are, perhaps, too focused on the content and perhaps unwilling to trade clicks or other advertiser-desirable behavior for access to free content. In short, in an industry that is highly dependent on ad revenue, any technology that shows no proclivity to increase that revenue is going to fade away. Even if it’s awesome.

  50. It’s hard for business to support an open standard when it can dropped for the sake of same-content monetization.

  51. Sh1n0b1

    @Joakim : I read all my RSS feeds in Thunderbird .. a mail client.

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  55. Clinton Gallagher @virtualCableTV

    RSS is alive and well albeit it now remains deeper in the stack.

    // business concerns
    IMO the Twitters and browser vendors et al. “downsized” their support for RSS as consuming feeds takes people away from the sites that make their money on advertising and analytics but they cannot afford to drop support for RSS altogether as it remains the de facto standard protocol for describing and transporting media across the Internet.

    There is a rather recent blog article from the founder of WordPress and he explains they serve 7.5 million RSS feeds every week. And that’s just WordPress. If RSS goes away somebody has to reinvent blogging. Ain’t a gonna happen.

    // usage concerns
    IMO the perception that the general public rejected RSS is a matter of perception. What I observed from day one was there very few opportunities for the general public to write RSS. Most RSS generators were crippleware written by script kiddies that could and would only generate title, link and description, only a few even supported enclosures and fewer yet supported Media RSS.

    Add the fact that NOBODY supported the entire specification or Media RSS and all anybody could get (in general) was lame title, link and description so branding suffered as did a lot of other usability concerns.

    I have been developing an RSS CMS that supports the entire 2.0 specification including Media RSS.

    RSS itself continues to be extensible and despite the emergence of JSON the use of RSS remains invaluable to web developers and publishers as JSON is not readable and JSON naming is not standardized. Hence, integration of services using JSON requires each developer to have a person-to-person conversation with one another to agree how their code should be written. JSON is therefor only useful on a 1:1 basis (loosely speaking that is as there are always exceptions to the norm) whereas RSS remains 1:x (many)

    I have bet the farm believing the emerging era of connected TV will result in a resurgence of “channels” as RSS remains the perfect format for TV guides as well as serving video in real-time using cloud services. Code to parse RSS is everywhere and can be copied and pasted by the neophytes.

    IMO HTML5 will also help bring a resurgence of RSS too as XSLT(ransformation) 2.0 to HTML5 is becoming supported by the modern browsers such as Chrome and others.

    RSS may remain embedded into the stack and not all that visible on the UI but RSS itself is not going away anytime soon as there are too many valuable uses for RSS.

  56. Nice article, inspirating for burning something :)

    I guess RSS should (must?) be replaced by something equally useful but PUSH style, XMPP is best candidate IMHO. Nowadays there are one or several XMPP libraries for each language and is really easy to code a piece of software that subscribes to a pub/sub account.

    Let’s make this evolve ourselves before some 2.0 BigBangBoomBubble Company “invents” something to subscribe to “news feeds and site updates” and do it with their own propietary protocol.

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  59. RSSfr

    RSS is a great tool, but most of the people even some tech people don’t understand it or know it.
    I like so much to easily follow the new articles on blogs I like the most with google reader.
    I hope it will survive.

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  62. Damien McKenna

    Count me in the number of people who used Safari *because* its RSS integration was second to none – I had a whole hierarchy of RSS feeds set up under one single folder in my bookmarks bar, as news came in it would quietly increment, letting me decide when I wanted to catch up on the latest. I’ve since migrated all of the feeds to Google Reader, but it’s just not the same, it’s out of mind and the UX is not as straight forward.

    RIP Safari RSS.