The world it seems is full of blog posts about RSS – really simple syndication, for the non-dorks. Apparently it’s dead. Or dying. Or very much alive.
RSS is a standard for publishing the latest content on a site with regular updates – such as a news site, or a blog – in a machine readable form which can then be used by other sites or applications to republish it.
Here’s an example of the sort of panicky things people are saying:
If RSS isn’t saved now, if browser vendors don’t realise the potential of RSS to save users a whole bunch of time and make the web better for them, then the alternative is that I will have to have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, or some such corporate-controlled identity, where I have to “Like” or “Follow” every website’s partner account that I’m interested in, and then have to deal with the privacy violations and problems related with corporate-owned identity owning a list of every website I’m interested in (and wanting to monetise that list), and they, and every website I’m interested in, knowing every other website I’m interested in following, and then I have to log in and check this corporate owned identity every day in order to find out what’s new on other websites, whilst I’m advertised to, because they are only interested in making the biggest and the best walled garden that I can’t leave.
Anyone still awake?
Here’s the thing for me: RSS cannot ‘die’ because it is a standard and not a service. Even if every website on the planet stopped producing an RSS feed, it wouldn’t die. It just wouldn’t be used much. There is no RSS corporation and so talking about its death is, well, exaggerated.
The other point is that this is a discussion about consumer use of RSS, which tends to be in the form of using an aggregator to pull in the latest content from all your favourite sites into one place. I use Google Reader to subscribe to about 750 sites, for instance.
I said ‘tends to’ but if I am honest a tiny number of people actually do this. Most get their links from Twitter or Facebook and by having bookmarks to their real favourites. Indeed, quite a few people who used to use an aggregator are now relying on social networks rather than managing their own list of feeds.
To this I respond, so what? People move on. I’m still in love with Google Reader, but there are plenty of others who are just as connected and up to speed as me (if not more so) who have given up. The world won’t end.
It’s also irrelevant for the future of RSS, which will continue to be an important part of the infastructure of the web. Lots of sites and applications use RSS feeds as the source of their content. This won’t end soon.
At the end of the day, RSS was never going to be a consumer technology, and it didn’t take off in the enterprise either. It just wasn’t good enough at tackling the issue of infobesity, and people have turned instead to using their friends and contacts on social networks as their filters.
Update: Thanks to @baskers who pointed out I had missed the ‘Drink!’ out of the title originally.