RSS is Dead; Long Live RSS!


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By Sterling “Chip” Camden
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Steve Gillmor says that RSS is dead.   As a member of the RSS Advisory Board, I feel compelled to inform Mr. Gillmor that his pronouncement is a bit premature.

Gillmor’s point seems to be that people no longer directly consume RSS feeds through their feed readers – that they spend all their time on Twitter and other social sites, engaged in a real-time conversation instead.  They get their news in the form of shortened URLs that others have Tweeted, rather than following all the posts from specific blogs.

That may be a trend, but it’s far from the whole story.  Even though Twitter’s popularity is skyrocketing with between 1 and 2 million tweets per day as of this writing and possibly reaching 12 million users by the end of the year, that still represents a small fraction of the overall Internet population (which now stands at over 1.5 billion).

How do all those other people consume their news?  Well, besides the Luddites who still rely on email chain letters, a large number of Internet users subscribe to feeds.  TechCrunch, the parent site of TechCrunchIT on which Gillmor posted his rant, reportedly passed the 2 million subscriber mark earlier this year.  I don’t think Michael Arrington would consider all those subscribers superfluous, nor would he second Gillmor’s advice that they unsubscribe and rely on Twitter to tell them when anything interesting is posted in the future.

Even people who don’t use feeds directly often benefit from them without knowing it.  Aggregators like FriendFeed use RSS or ATOM as a transport mechanism to gather the feeds they present to their users.  I’ve often thought that users have to go through too many steps to subscribe to most feeds, and these aggregators represent just one way to simplify that.  I’ve always expected that over time users will lose their awareness of RSS as it becomes ubiquitous.  They won’t need to connect the wires in order to use the telephone any more.

Gillmor also makes much about the revolution that full text feeds brought to news consumers.  I agree – I like to stay in my feed reader rather than clicking through from summaries or titles to read the full article.  But Twitter reverses that – often you don’t get a summary, or even a recognizable URL to give you a clue to the content for which you’re invited to click.  Is that progress?

How about you?  Do you still read feeds?  Has Twitter or some other social site changed the way you consume information online?

[Crown picture source: Flickr (CC)]





80 Responses to RSS is Dead; Long Live RSS!

  1. I’m with the others who believe that Steve’s peculiar RSS v. Twitter comparison was written to generate conversation. It apparently worked.

    If pressed to make a comparison…

    “Twitter is an unfiltered stream of subjective sound-bites, drawn from sources of widely varying quality. It has vitality, energy and immediacy, unburdened by credibility or consistency.

    As such, Twitter is perfect for informal communication, entertainment and as a pointer to where the more serious stories are located. As a conduit for high-quality information, RSS reigns supreme.”

    For those who care, a more detailed opinion on the failure of RSS Readers is available on the MashLogic blog.

    • I’m subscribed to more than 200 feeds myself. I don’t read all of them every day, but I scan through them periodically, and then slow down to read the ones that catch my attention.

      • I have about 200 feeds in my Google Reader as well. I do not plan to stop using RSS anytime soon! In addition, my blog has lots of RSS subscribers – RSS is still living and thriving.

    • I'm subscribed to more than 200 feeds myself. I don't read all of them every day, but I scan through them periodically, and then slow down to read the ones that catch my attention.

      • I have about 200 feeds in my Google Reader as well. I do not plan to stop using RSS anytime soon! In addition, my blog has lots of RSS subscribers – RSS is still living and thriving.

  2. I still read a dozen or more RSS feeds everyday to keep up to date with my writing job. I’d be lost without many of them ^^

  3. I still read a dozen or more RSS feeds everyday to keep up to date with my writing job. I'd be lost without many of them ^^

  4. I use Feed everyday to hunt for cool gadgets that others are blogging about. So Feed is great for me and I can’t live without it. :)

  5. I use Feed everyday to hunt for cool gadgets that others are blogging about. So Feed is great for me and I can't live without it. :)

  6. I think we should let people who choose Twitter over RSS go and quietly commit their informational suicide. :)

    However in this specific case that post looks more like “let’s post content so dumb people can’t help but link to it” linkbait.

  7. I think we should let people who choose Twitter over RSS go and quietly commit their informational suicide. :)

    However in this specific case that post looks more like "let's post content so dumb people can't help but link to it" linkbait.

  8. To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.

    I tend to ignore Steve Gillmor because of his very narrow perspective. When something gets old to him, he claims it dead. He doesn’t realize that not everyone uses technologies the way he does; not everybody opts for the same level of integration.

    For instance, “Twitter track” is something he talks about incessantly. He wants the feature back and talks about how important of a feature it is, in general. Turns out, he doesn’t really care about the feature in the way most people see it (keep up to date with a certain topic). He only wants to be able to track his own name. He’s popular online and doesn’t want to stay up to date with with everyone’s doing. All he wants to know is when people are talking directly to him.

    With RSS, it’s still a very viable and young technology. I don’t think it’s hit a tipping point to become mainstream, and it won’t until it becomes something the average user can grasp more easily.

    RSS is very different from Twitter. Though, Steve probably uses Twitter like a title-only RSS reader that opens all links externally. What Twitter has that most DON’T want in an RSS reader is mundane, every-day details. What Twitter has that RSS doesn’t is Search, and that is HUGE for keeping up with a topic. Fortunately, you can easily use Twitter Search alongside RSS.

    For me, personally, I pay more attention to RSS feeds, because it’s pre-filtered. Bloggers typically put more thought into blog posts and only post about reasonably important topics. Tweets on the other hand, are much more noisy.

  9. To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.

    I tend to ignore Steve Gillmor because of his very narrow perspective. When something gets old to him, he claims it dead. He doesn't realize that not everyone uses technologies the way he does; not everybody opts for the same level of integration.

    For instance, "Twitter track" is something he talks about incessantly. He wants the feature back and talks about how important of a feature it is, in general. Turns out, he doesn't really care about the feature in the way most people see it (keep up to date with a certain topic). He only wants to be able to track his own name. He's popular online and doesn't want to stay up to date with with everyone's doing. All he wants to know is when people are talking directly to him.

    With RSS, it's still a very viable and young technology. I don't think it's hit a tipping point to become mainstream, and it won't until it becomes something the average user can grasp more easily.

    RSS is very different from Twitter. Though, Steve probably uses Twitter like a title-only RSS reader that opens all links externally. What Twitter has that most DON'T want in an RSS reader is mundane, every-day details. What Twitter has that RSS doesn't is Search, and that is HUGE for keeping up with a topic. Fortunately, you can easily use Twitter Search alongside RSS.

    For me, personally, I pay more attention to RSS feeds, because it's pre-filtered. Bloggers typically put more thought into blog posts and only post about reasonably important topics. Tweets on the other hand, are much more noisy.

  10. Do I still read feeds? I don’t feel like I’ve been using them very long but the discovery probably jsut over a year ago changed the way I use the net for sure.
    I don’t see myself giving up on them anytime soon. I’m subcribed to 173 feeds at the moment and generally add one or two a week.

    I hate that I can’t see what the actual url is when it’s been shortened on twitter, but I think it’s with power twitter on firefox it changes the short link into a description which is better.

  11. Do I still read feeds? I don't feel like I've been using them very long but the discovery probably jsut over a year ago changed the way I use the net for sure.

    I don't see myself giving up on them anytime soon. I'm subcribed to 173 feeds at the moment and generally add one or two a week.

    I hate that I can't see what the actual url is when it's been shortened on twitter, but I think it's with power twitter on firefox it changes the short link into a description which is better.

  12. I’m with the others who believe that Steve’s peculiar RSS v. Twitter comparison was written to generate conversation. It apparently worked.

    If pressed to make a comparison…

    “Twitter is an unfiltered stream of subjective sound-bites, drawn from sources of widely varying quality. It has vitality, energy and immediacy, unburdened by credibility or consistency.

    As such, Twitter is perfect for informal communication, entertainment and as a pointer to where the more serious stories are located. As a conduit for high-quality information, RSS reigns supreme.”

    For those who care, a more detailed opinion on the failure of RSS Readers is available on the MashLogic blog.

  13. Twitter in no way has supplanted RSS. The functions are completely different. Twitter is real-time communication, with some historical search and filtering capability; RSS is amalgamated information on selected topics.

    I admit, the idea of a Twitter/RSS linkage would be interesting — I see an article on an RSS feed, I want to know who knows more, I put out an all-call question on Twitter. Or, I hear an interesting concept on Twitter, I want to know more, I search a database of RSS feeds for relevant keywords.

    But one as a replacement for the other? Can’t see it.

  14. Twitter in no way has supplanted RSS. The functions are completely different. Twitter is real-time communication, with some historical search and filtering capability; RSS is amalgamated information on selected topics.

    I admit, the idea of a Twitter/RSS linkage would be interesting — I see an article on an RSS feed, I want to know who knows more, I put out an all-call question on Twitter. Or, I hear an interesting concept on Twitter, I want to know more, I search a database of RSS feeds for relevant keywords.

    But one as a replacement for the other? Can't see it.

  15. not on twitter and don’t see the need to join

    I did join facebook recently but I don’t find it as a replacement for a reader.

    I like Igoogle and the reader gadgets.

    I think tweeter users have short attention spans and probably don’t read many blogs of any length.

  16. not on twitter and don't see the need to join

    I did join facebook recently but I don't find it as a replacement for a reader.

    I like Igoogle and the reader gadgets.

    I think tweeter users have short attention spans and probably don't read many blogs of any length.

  17. I only use Google Reader. If not for it, I wouldn’t be connected at all because I’m not ready for the Twitter-discovery method yet. Besides, I like my news to independent of others too.

  18. I only use Google Reader. If not for it, I wouldn't be connected at all because I'm not ready for the Twitter-discovery method yet. Besides, I like my news to independent of others too.

  19. I am both a twitter user and a RSS user. I think both have their place online and people shouldnt dismiss either of them out of hand.

    My RSS feeds keep me hooked into my favourite sites (such as geeksaresexy.net). They give me a detailed look into the thoughts and ideas of my favourite online writers. In fact I have a Google reader app in Firefox which speeds up the process of collect my feeds. Feeds are just the new version of the dark and medival days of when a person used to hand deliver your magazine subscriptions. Remember those days?

    But I am also a big user of Twitter but like many tweeters I use it in a very different way than I do RSS. Twitter for me is like get a text message for a mate saying “hey check this out – its really cool/shocking/funny”. I don’t follow millions of Twitter users, only selecting those that are either personal friends or online writers or broadcasters that submit content that is of interest to me.

    I think for some to say that Twitter users have a short attention span and probably wouldn’t read a full post is unfair. I am a avid Twitter user and reguarly read full posts, even if that post wasn’t what I thought it was about initially. There have been many times that I have been going through my RSS feeds and skipped through different posts, or not read them fully.

    Twitter is filling a gap in the online marketplace just like RSS does. They are not the same thing and I dont believe that they are trying to be. If you have a interest in all things online then I would strongly suggest both recieves RSS feeds into a reader and having a Twitter account.

    • I do have a Twitter account (SterlingCamden), but I don’t use it much yet. Like chat, I find it more of a distraction than an aide.

  20. I am both a twitter user and a RSS user. I think both have their place online and people shouldnt dismiss either of them out of hand.

    My RSS feeds keep me hooked into my favourite sites (such as geeksaresexy.net). They give me a detailed look into the thoughts and ideas of my favourite online writers. In fact I have a Google reader app in Firefox which speeds up the process of collect my feeds. Feeds are just the new version of the dark and medival days of when a person used to hand deliver your magazine subscriptions. Remember those days?

    But I am also a big user of Twitter but like many tweeters I use it in a very different way than I do RSS. Twitter for me is like get a text message for a mate saying "hey check this out – its really cool/shocking/funny". I don't follow millions of Twitter users, only selecting those that are either personal friends or online writers or broadcasters that submit content that is of interest to me.

    I think for some to say that Twitter users have a short attention span and probably wouldn't read a full post is unfair. I am a avid Twitter user and reguarly read full posts, even if that post wasn't what I thought it was about initially. There have been many times that I have been going through my RSS feeds and skipped through different posts, or not read them fully.

    Twitter is filling a gap in the online marketplace just like RSS does. They are not the same thing and I dont believe that they are trying to be. If you have a interest in all things online then I would strongly suggest both recieves RSS feeds into a reader and having a Twitter account.

    • I do have a Twitter account (SterlingCamden), but I don't use it much yet. Like chat, I find it more of a distraction than an aide.

  21. What’s ironic about this is I’m reading this article at work from my rss reader, which is how I get 9/10 of my news.. tech or otherwise.

    • I was just about to say the same thing… at work, reading this article in my RSS reader.

      I don’t think RSS will die in a hurry. It’s still the best thing for consolidated updates of web site content, if you don’t want your email inbox filled up by digest emails. Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, etc won’t ever replace that.

  22. What's ironic about this is I'm reading this article at work from my rss reader, which is how I get 9/10 of my news.. tech or otherwise.

    • I was just about to say the same thing… at work, reading this article in my RSS reader.

      I don't think RSS will die in a hurry. It's still the best thing for consolidated updates of web site content, if you don't want your email inbox filled up by digest emails. Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, etc won't ever replace that.

  23. I get the majority of my daily information input from RSS feeds, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon, at all.

    Twitter is fun and easier to adopt for the mainstream public, but it is definitely lacking in the ‘hard info’ deptartment. Sifting through piles of useless chatter is the biggest problem, and I don’t see that abating in the near future.

  24. I get the majority of my daily information input from RSS feeds, and I don't see this changing anytime soon, at all.

    Twitter is fun and easier to adopt for the mainstream public, but it is definitely lacking in the 'hard info' deptartment. Sifting through piles of useless chatter is the biggest problem, and I don't see that abating in the near future.

  25. RSS is the only way I can keep up with everything and still have time to do my job. Also, using RSS with outlook makes it look like I’m checking my email. Just because I prefer not to twitter and those sites are blocked doesn’t mean we should dump all other forms of content.

    • I find Outlook’s feed reader to be inadequate for my needs — but your mileage may vary. I use FeedDemon myself.

  26. Aw geez, you were doing so well until this: “…on which Gillmor posted his rant…” Even if it was a rant, isn’t it enough to be geek-sexy (not to mention right)? Makes everything else seem like a personal attack.

    • Sorry, I didn’t mean it ad hominem. To me it qualified as a rant because it seems specifically intended to incite a reaction.

  27. RSS is the only way I can keep up with everything and still have time to do my job. Also, using RSS with outlook makes it look like I'm checking my email. Just because I prefer not to twitter and those sites are blocked doesn't mean we should dump all other forms of content.

    • I find Outlook's feed reader to be inadequate for my needs — but your mileage may vary. I use FeedDemon myself.

  28. Aw geez, you were doing so well until this: "…on which Gillmor posted his rant…" Even if it was a rant, isn't it enough to be geek-sexy (not to mention right)? Makes everything else seem like a personal attack.

    • Sorry, I didn't mean it ad hominem. To me it qualified as a rant because it seems specifically intended to incite a reaction.

  29. Twitter and RSS are two very different tools. I use both, but for different reasons. Twitter is fine for immediacy, but my RSS feeds, now totaling maybe 40, keep me updated on news and articles in my particular area of interest, give me research information, and generally entertain. I check my feeds every day, and find them invaluable.

  30. Twitter and RSS are two very different tools. I use both, but for different reasons. Twitter is fine for immediacy, but my RSS feeds, now totaling maybe 40, keep me updated on news and articles in my particular area of interest, give me research information, and generally entertain. I check my feeds every day, and find them invaluable.

  31. I read news via RSS feeds from BBC because firefox has it by default. So RSS is alive and fun for me.

  32. I read news via RSS feeds from BBC because firefox has it by default. So RSS is alive and fun for me.

  33. The best part of my day is going through my feeds , I use Google reader and although I’m just on 15 subscriptions or so but I’m highly thankful for RSS … RSS just began taking off and its used not only in readers but also in podcasts and the two are hardly going anywhere … Twitter might serve as a Breaking News medium where people post stories as they happen but blogs are for the more insight , Its probably like TV and Newspapers , TV Brings you live images and all that but Newspapers and printed media including the internet offer insight

    • It’s funny, because a couple of years ago we were all talking about the triviality of so many blogs and the “echo chamber” effect — then along comes Twitter and makes us macrobloggers look so serious.

  34. The best part of my day is going through my feeds , I use Google reader and although I'm just on 15 subscriptions or so but I'm highly thankful for RSS … RSS just began taking off and its used not only in readers but also in podcasts and the two are hardly going anywhere … Twitter might serve as a Breaking News medium where people post stories as they happen but blogs are for the more insight , Its probably like TV and Newspapers , TV Brings you live images and all that but Newspapers and printed media including the internet offer insight

    • It's funny, because a couple of years ago we were all talking about the triviality of so many blogs and the "echo chamber" effect — then along comes Twitter and makes us macrobloggers look so serious.

  35. Twitter hasn’t supplanted RSS for me any more than Instant Messaging has replaced E-mail. I agree with many others here that the two technologies serve very different purposes.

    For me personally, I prefer to consume my news content asynchronously. I don’t much care for the live stream noise of Twitter.

    I have found that RSS (Google reader is my current RSS reader) is great for following trusted channels of information. Here I choose sources with a good signal-to-noise ratio on the topics that interest me.

    On the other hand, I have found Twitter to be excellent for following people. I occasionally peek into their stream of consciousness and find interesting tidbits that might not have appeared in my usual RSS channels.

    I tried using twitter search to track the conversation surrounding particular topics, but it was just a bit to scattered for my taste. Much like the “everything in your inbox” approach of Gmail. I’m sure it works well for many people, but it doesn’t match how my brain works.

    So I say that both Twitter (or similar real-time technologies) and RSS are here to stay.

    • Signal to noise ratio is an important distinguishing factor. Those who keep their feed list well-pruned can get a lot of information with little distraction. Someone needs to think about that for Twitter.

  36. Twitter hasn't supplanted RSS for me any more than Instant Messaging has replaced E-mail. I agree with many others here that the two technologies serve very different purposes.

    For me personally, I prefer to consume my news content asynchronously. I don't much care for the live stream noise of Twitter.

    I have found that RSS (Google reader is my current RSS reader) is great for following trusted channels of information. Here I choose sources with a good signal-to-noise ratio on the topics that interest me.

    On the other hand, I have found Twitter to be excellent for following people. I occasionally peek into their stream of consciousness and find interesting tidbits that might not have appeared in my usual RSS channels.

    I tried using twitter search to track the conversation surrounding particular topics, but it was just a bit to scattered for my taste. Much like the "everything in your inbox" approach of Gmail. I'm sure it works well for many people, but it doesn't match how my brain works.

    So I say that both Twitter (or similar real-time technologies) and RSS are here to stay.

    • Signal to noise ratio is an important distinguishing factor. Those who keep their feed list well-pruned can get a lot of information with little distraction. Someone needs to think about that for Twitter.

  37. I have about 30 ‘sites’ I subscribe to, but don’t have the time to visit each one. I LIVE by RSS feeds using Google Reader. In all honesty, I don’t remember getting news, articles, and updates before RSS.

    Thanks, and don’t ever get ride of the feeds!

    Aaron

  38. I have about 30 'sites' I subscribe to, but don't have the time to visit each one. I LIVE by RSS feeds using Google Reader. In all honesty, I don't remember getting news, articles, and updates before RSS.

    Thanks, and don't ever get ride of the feeds!

    Aaron

  39. I read this via RSS, i love google reader! it’s universal portability allows me to read via phone laptop desktop, work or home.

    But then again i still read usenet too.

  40. I read this via RSS, i love google reader! it's universal portability allows me to read via phone laptop desktop, work or home.

    But then again i still read usenet too.

  41. RSS saves me a LOT of time every day! I have about a hundred sites feeding into my Google Reader, a few dozen on Bloglines, and more coming straight to my iGoogle homepage. Oh, I also check Twitter occasionally.

  42. RSS saves me a LOT of time every day! I have about a hundred sites feeding into my Google Reader, a few dozen on Bloglines, and more coming straight to my iGoogle homepage. Oh, I also check Twitter occasionally.

  43. I just read this post via Google Reader. I love Google Reader, it makes my procrastination that much more efficient.

    • It’s definitely important to procrastinate efficiently, so you can get it done and get on with other things.

  44. I just read this post via Google Reader. I love Google Reader, it makes my procrastination that much more efficient.

    • It's definitely important to procrastinate efficiently, so you can get it done and get on with other things.

  45. I have 73 feeds that I access through Bloglines. I also have some of the same site feeds as contacts on Twitter, as well as some acquaintances and family (who don’t have anything other content to syndicate!). The two are qualitatively different.

    A few of the headlines catch my eye when I’m browsing Twitter updates, but when I’m on Bloglines, I read in much richer detail and really keep up with the news that I want to read. It’s less pressurized to have all my feeds in one place and in full text. On Twitter, I tend to be rapid-fire click-happy, missing the big, important things in favor of triviality. As far as serious, academic content, most academics that I follow on Twitter simply use the services to link to their latest blog post or article of interest. All that does is add another click to get to what is already being sent to Bloglines in RSS. Information is much easier to store and keep track of on Bloglines. If I miss a day, I can generally catch up. If I miss a week (roundabout 2000 posts/day), it gets sticky, but I can still manage it from the cohesive interface of Bloglines. With Twitter, that’s an impossibility. Not only is it way too timely in a sort of silly way, but the Twitter site lags so badly that I can’t even look at back entries without going insane.

    I also have some RSS feeds syndicated directly to my browser (Firefox) and Google reader, Bloglines is just my main index. Twitter will never replace my live feeds on my bookmark bar in Firefox!

  46. I have 73 feeds that I access through Bloglines. I also have some of the same site feeds as contacts on Twitter, as well as some acquaintances and family (who don't have anything other content to syndicate!). The two are qualitatively different.

    A few of the headlines catch my eye when I'm browsing Twitter updates, but when I'm on Bloglines, I read in much richer detail and really keep up with the news that I want to read. It's less pressurized to have all my feeds in one place and in full text. On Twitter, I tend to be rapid-fire click-happy, missing the big, important things in favor of triviality. As far as serious, academic content, most academics that I follow on Twitter simply use the services to link to their latest blog post or article of interest. All that does is add another click to get to what is already being sent to Bloglines in RSS. Information is much easier to store and keep track of on Bloglines. If I miss a day, I can generally catch up. If I miss a week (roundabout 2000 posts/day), it gets sticky, but I can still manage it from the cohesive interface of Bloglines. With Twitter, that's an impossibility. Not only is it way too timely in a sort of silly way, but the Twitter site lags so badly that I can't even look at back entries without going insane.

    I also have some RSS feeds syndicated directly to my browser (Firefox) and Google reader, Bloglines is just my main index. Twitter will never replace my live feeds on my bookmark bar in Firefox!