RSS is dying, and you shouldn’t give a shit

First of all, Happy New Year everyone 🙂 So I came across this blog post today, about the fact that RSS is dying and why that should bother you. I don’t really agree with the conclusion that saving a specific technology is the solution to a need. So as the first post of 2011, IMHO, my thoughts on why saving RSS really isn’t that big of a deal.

Don’t get me wrong, RSS is a nice piece of technology. Getting everyone one to agree on a way of distributing content is always a good thing. And as the blog post I’m replying to states, it’s not about the technology, it’s about the interface.

But I don’t agree with the solution. The solution isn’t to make sure each and every browser has a decent RSS reader. It’s realizing that RSS was the beginning of an alternative content distribution channel. But the “RSS channel” has always been too limited to grab the attention of anyone but the most devoted followers. Instead, most of us are casual followers. We enjoy a topic, and the discussion that might follow, but we don’t really care too much about the source. We’re more interested in being where topics of interest might pop up, and then surrounding ourselves with potential sources whom can provide these topics.

So what’s the next logical step for RSS. It’s already happend, big time. And the end result at the moment is your Twitter feed and your Facebook feed. And instead of clicking the RSS button whenever we find a blog post that we find interesting, we click the “Add this” or “Share that” buttons..

Companies, blogs, websites, etc, they don’t replace RSS with Twitter or Facebook because the RSS UI is terrible. They replace RSS, or rather give more focus to other channels, because it makes more sense. Both to them and to their users. Twitter and Facebook (only as illustrators of a service) are equal to RSS v2: The social RSS. You can’t make RSS social by “fixing its interface”.

If RSS dies, you don’t lose the option of reading in private. All you lose is your aggregation convenience. Also, RSS has never been a good platform for serving ads, so don’t argue about lost ad revenues. Instead, social platforms has increased the exposure, gaining your website more visitors, hence increasing the potential ad revenue.

I don’t think RSS as a technology will die any time soon. But it has already peaked with regards to its potential, and already been replaced with something else.


  1. If RSS dies, “content re-distributors” will die with it.

    Here’s an example.

    A website uses RSS feed of multiple websites to enrich their content. If the website replace RSS with Facebook or Twitter feeds (i.e. CNN, FOX News, etc.) – they are going to piss off a lot of visitors.

    I click on one of the website’s URL, which then points me to the content creator’s Twitter or Facebook page. To read the full content, their Twitter/Facebook page has a link to their full content.

    You see the inconvenience? A visitor has to hop through 1 additional page (Facebook/Twitter) to get to the original content.

    “but we don’t really care too much about the source” – yes we do because content creators give the FULL content on their page, not their Facebook/Twitter.

    Companies only use Twitter/Facebook feeds to grow user base, which ultimately points the users to the original content.

    1. But I’m not saying you should put content on Facebook or Twitter. Just as with RSS, that still should be on the site. It’s all about redistribution and discovery. RSS doesn’t motivate redistribution and discovery.

      What I’m saying is that RSS never took off because it wasn’t a good fit for most people.

      I’ll give you another example if you don’t like the Twitter/Facebook reference: StumbleUpon. Fantastic way of discovering high quality content from sources you didn’t even know existed. That’s also what I imply when I say we’re more interested in the topic than the source. I tell StumbleUpon what topics I’m interested in and then I’m served content that fits that. I don’t care about the source. I care about the quality, but not the source.

  2. “RSS doesn’t motivate redistribution”

    My site, is partially driven on RSS redistribution. Complimentary live content was the real motivation for me.

    “What I’m saying is that RSS never took off because it wasn’t a good fit for most people.”

    Agreed. Since I felt I needed another software/service to view the same content that I could get with a browser. RSS was targeted towards the end consumers from the start when in reality it should have marketed towards B2B. Look at the news headline space, there are SO many redundant articles on the same subject; it would make sense to consolidate their data with RSS and have one media company feed off of another company (but that’s in the perfect world)

    Investment in social websites (twitter/facebook/StumbleUpon) is volatile…RSS on the contrary is here to stay.

    Here’s a TechCrunch article I just picked up…

    “Twitter And Facebook Really Are Killing RSS (At Least For TechCrunch Visitors)”

    Briefly scanning the comments, RSS is here to stay. My only concern is content creators solely driven on profits (instead of maintaining user loyalty) will need to pull back on how much information is dumped on the RSS feeds. If you’re going to put your whole content in RSS, you can forget about a link back to the source.

    On the subject of discovery, Twitter/Facebook/StumbleUpon, etc. etc. – what will they look like in 5 years? Look at Digg. RSS being a platform rather than a corporate-mentality driven social site (I hope) will still stay with us.

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