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Ask HN: Is RSS still worth the time?
56 points by ciokan on Sept 11, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments
I'm dealing with a project that lives through content and I was wondering if it's still worth the time to invest making some RSS features that someone suggested.

I honestly rarely hear about RSS. My idea is to build whatever users are asking and stop investing time in features that will go unnoticed but, since this is a young project, I might be wrong and losing something.

My question towards this community is...how many of you still use RSS to subscribe to content?

I fear the day that RSS will become so unpopular that developers won't support it anymore. RSS is the basis of my information aggregation and is a necessity for me. It allows me to read news at my own pace and to get all the news with a backlog so that I'm sure I don't miss anything.

RSS allows me to go directly to an article without having to navigate through the website. Some websites (TheVerge comes to mind) have a pretty nice design, but make it hard to get an overview of all the news and you easily miss things. With RSS I know that when I start my client all the articles they posted will be there and they will still be there when I start my client next month. I can manually mark articles that don't interest me as read, but keep others for when I have more time.

I follow about 50 sites, so if I had to check manually if any of them had updates (often in various sections, because they don't have a main overview that shows everything) I'd lose way more time. It's also synced over all my devices. I use the Reederapp in combination with Feedly, and it syncs over my Macs, iPhone and iPad. I have a backlog of about 500 articles, some months old, imagine having to go through a specific site and scrolling back page after page after page to get to that specific article you saw the title of 2 months ago.

I wish more sites would show the entire article in RSS feeds instead of a short preview. I understand the advertising reasons behind requiring users to click through, but with RSS you have a plain article that's optimized for reading without all the distractions of a website.

RSS has largely become invisible. Many CMSs just support it, which is great if you use RSS, and irrelevant if you don't. Many RSS readers are flexible enough to find the feed if you point at a site's base URL too, so while that implicit contract is in place, life is good.

However, that very invisibility might prove to be its downfall: RSS is so incredibly useful to those who know about it that the only way to keep it going is for those of us who create to ensure our platforms keep creating it.

I miss seeing that little orange RSS icon though.

edit: I also miss seeing Dave Winer comment on threads like this!

I just posted a long comment at the top level of this thread. ;-)

I just want to take a moment to hat-tip a legendary dev. I've heard of you at LEAST since MORE for the Mac rocked the sales charts when I was a teen (I also FONDLY miss Macworld Expos, attended a bunch of them!) Thanks for being an awesome nerd!

Oh well, I heard you and you should check what we do. It looks like this:http://www.feedsapi.com will make your life with RSS nicer and should improve your user experience with RSS. Here are some of the things you can do: Turn those shortened rss feeds into full Text rss feeds, curate your feeds with keywords tomonly get what you really care about, curate your feeds with a more complex filter structure using RegEx, get your feeds items to be delivered everywhere in any format (htmk, txt, pdf, word...) and in full lenght ! 50 sites is a lot... And you may not need to read all of those feeds items so curation makes sense in this specific case.

I hope this helps.

Hey, you should check this out for sites that don't give you entire articles in RSS feeds:


RSS is still the best tool out there for aggregating and curating written content on a personal basis. (One of) The reason you don't hear much about it is that it works and isn't sexy and breaks down walled garden monetization schemes.

Without a doubt RSS is worth the time.

Think of RSS as an advertisement for the stuff on your news site or blog. If you don't publish RSS, how will people find your stuff? By visiting the home page of your site and looking for stuff they haven't seen before? Sure, some people will do that. But people who read your site systematically, people who you would think of as members of your community, can benefit from more automatic notification. That's what RSS is for. All kinds of networks have developed around RSS. If you don't provide a feed, your site can't participate in those networks.

Also, how do you think links make it to Twitter and Facebook? Very often they were posted by people who follow your site's feed. So while most people aren't aware they're getting their links from feeds, they are.

I'm not aware of how the plumbing works in NYC, but I live there, and depend on it. Water flows in and out. Treated on both sides. RSS is the plumbing for news. It's best when it just works without you having to even be aware of it.

Here's an example. Sometimes I get so interested in a subject I put together a river site dedicated to news in that area. Earlier this week I did one for Major League Baseball.


The vast majority of the sites I went looking for feeds on had them, and they worked with my aggregator. I didn't need to contact anyone. And now they have a new source of flow, that didn't cost them anything, since they were already supporting RSS.

Preach it from the mountaintops!

And Thanks so much for mlbriver. It will be a tonic for my seasonal affective disorder that I blame on the NBA and NFL seasons.

Glad you like mlbriver.com. I can't believe how it's expanded my knowledge of baseball in just a few days. It's been a long time since I got caught up. Too busy with other things I guess.

I use Reeder/Feedly every day to keep up with a ton of different information sources. There's just too many interesting sources to manually check them all and aggregators like HN or Reddit can be hit-or-miss.

Edit: Something to consider is that the people who submit links to places like Reddit and HN are probably much more likely than the rest of your users to use some kind of feed reader. Even if feed subscription numbers are low, those few "power users" might have a disproportionate effect on how much your content gets shared.

Let's just say that if it wasn't for RSS, I wouldn't have seen this page.

Neither would I.

I use The Old Reader to follow around 500 feeds. Basically all of them are blogs and sites that update less than once per week. I get a few new items per day into my reading list this way. I newer use feeds of news sites that have a lot of traffic, like HN. I visit those directly.

For me, RSS or Atom is the only usable way to keep up with rarely-updated sites. Twitter is too-fast moving, since it's very easy to miss interesting things in the noise. I don't like to use email because going through my inbox and acting on mail is very different from reading articles and blog posts and I like to keep them separate.

What's your opinion about bloggers that enjoy getting a bit of ad revenue from their posts?

Oh hell yeah. I love RSS and would not even consider any kind of content oriented project that didn't support RSS/Atom. If you believe that a decentralized / distributed Web is better than a centralized / walled-garden model, then RSS / Atom is a must.

Disclaimer: One of our products is heavily rooted in consume large amounts of content from RSS feeds and providing tools to help users filter/sort/mine that content to find the really useful stuff, etc. So I do have something of a biased position here. But my position is truly as much ideological as anything.

Please don't kill RSS just yet. Since the death of Google Reader, I've been using selfoss[1] actively to subscribe to news sources (HN is one of them). I can't live without RSS.

[1] http://selfoss.aditu.de/

It's interesting that you asked that on the very same day that Github introduced a plug-in that automatically generate an Atom (RSS) feed from your posts on Github Pages: https://help.github.com/articles/atom-rss-feeds-for-github-p...

RSS ain't dead!

I prefer to use RSS and daily use a combination of Feedly and Reeder for iOS. I haven't found any better for keeping on-top of daily news.

I guess it depends on the content you're offering.

I use an RSS reader (Vienna) and check it multiple times per day. I have, let's see, 28 active subscriptions in it. Most of them don't update often at all.

The best use case for RSS is if there's a source that occasionally puts out highly interesting content, on an unpredictable schedule. (This describes most of the feeds I'm subscribed to.) RSS (or something equivalent to it) enables you to not waste time checking it manually every day or whatever, while also being sure you won't miss anything when/if they do finally update. It's like switching from poll-driven to interrupt-driven I/O. I wish more things provided RSS feeds.


There isn't much buzz around RSS anymore, but there isn't buzz around telephony or email either, and yet all three technologies are still used every day by many people.

I'd say it depends on your audience. If it's a technology-oriented site, RSS (or better, Atom... it won't make you tear your hair out nearly as much as the umpteen different versions of RSS, and most readers support it just fine) is going to be a win.

Spitting out an Atom feed really isn't that hard.

Edit: since it sounds like you have an existing feed, you could try going to some of the big reader sites (e.g., feedly) that tell you how many subscribers you have. For individuals using their own reader app, your server logs should give you an idea.

Yes! I use theoldreader.com to follow around ~100 blogs/sites. RSS is particularly perfect for keeping track of sites that don't update often. I don´t use RSS to keep track of sites like HN/Reddit because their content is always changing rapidly.

Every single day. It's how I get 99% of my news and other periodical written content.

Actually something will have to be extremely compelling for me to bother keeping up with it if it doesn't offer an RSS feed.

I feel RSS/Atom feeds are still an extremely important way to subscribe to informational updates online - particularlly for news following/reading. I have always been hopeful for projects like Zone (https://github.com/abouaziz/ZONE) to get more public interest, and RSS-social-reader products aimed at the facebook folks - such as http://newsbae.com, http://popurls.com, http://alltop.com, http://skimfeed.com, etc - will raise awareness of the need for the public to still want this simple service to exist.

I do. Search HN to find out how many people were disappointed by Google shuttering Reader, and how many people migrated to other services (e.g. Newsblur, which I use).

RSS might not be as popular as it once was, but it certainly seems very popular in the our demographic :)

I arrived at this Ask HN through RSS.

My RSS reader (digg reader) is my most visited site/app, far ahead of the social sites and only closely followed by gmail.

I would say that the people who do use RSS use it a lot. There might not be many left, but I'd say they would fit the "power user" category.

On the other hand, you might be able to skip building RSS features (idk exactly what kind of feature you were suggested) as long as you provide some kind of endpoint where people can plug ifttt and the like to get the same result (you can create the recipe yourself and advertise it)

It's not dead! Without RSS I can't even use the internet properly. The hole that Google Reader left in my heart has since then been filled by newsblur.com.

I use it with Feedly with around 600+ feeds. I also have a Google CSE set up with my subscriptions. Google Reader had the best search ever. Sad that it was shuttered.

The majority of content comes from few big sites so I put them into HF and just scan them and mark as read while others are organised as folders like:

  Interesting	|
  Interesting	| Australians
  Interesting	| Prose

  My state	| General
  My state	| Films
  My state	| Religion

  Religion	| General
  Religion	| Catholic
  Religion	| Orthodox

  Tech		| Personal Computing
  Tech		| Vendors

  Tools		| Excel
  Tools		| Emacs
  Tools		| Vim
  Tools		| PIM

  Career	| General
  Career	| SAP
  Career	| Professional accounting

  Books		| General
  Books		| Public domain
  Books		| University Press

  Language	| Blogs
  Language	| English
  Language	| Advice

  Country	| Defence
  Country	| Nutjobs
  Country	| Foreign media
RSS is really great and I wouldn't replace it with anything else from the restricted web.

You also don't want to forget about aggregators who automatically grab your content and make it accessible to their audience. This is either a positive or a negative depending on your viewpoint, it's certainly a positive for me because it allows domain-specific search engines possible simply by collating a few feeds together for example.

Yes - and the people who use RSS often are news sources for other people and are more likely to share your stuff. So even though there were only 100,000 Google Reader users, they probably shared to n+10 yet you won't see those stats in just people consuming your RSS feed.

I stopped using RSS altogether when Google killed Reader.

If you're worried about being burned again, there's two good self hosted RSS readers out there:

Tiny Tiny RSS: https://tt-rss.org/gitlab/explore

SelfOSS: http://selfoss.aditu.de/

Both include mobile apps and are open source with web based interfaces and JSON based API's to let you implement your own clients.

And almost all of the RSS web services and apps I have looked at support OPML to import and export your feeds. It is really easy to move between RSS systems with minimal loss.

Nope. What about your archives?

I know that for me having an archive of the feeds is pretty darn important.

I can certainly see that for some (many?) people archives are important. I currently use Feedbin.com, and I have occationally searched for a past story.

Mostly, I bookmark and archive important articles, and use a search engine to find more general more none specific info

Don't forget Newsblur, also OSS and has apps for all the mobile platforms.

Why though? There are alternatives.

I went from Google Reader to Feedly, and I'm quite happy.

I still use RSS for about 250 blogs/sites (tracked by Feedly). That's no near to what it was in times of Google Reader. Some sites stopped providing RSS. For some there was just too much content and it was a pain to filter out everything. I have settled down on those two approaches:

1) If blog/site generates content rare and provides RSS, I use Feedly to track it.

2) If blog/sites generates a lot of content I expect that someone in my Twitter feed will post link to really good article.

So yeah - RSS is still valuable.

Like you, some of the high volume sites I have removed from RSS. Others, I have organized into a high volume group or folder of my RSS Reader. Then I use some keyword filters to notify me of when stuff I really want to read comes through the high volume feeds.

The "fall" of rss has been one of the worst things to happen to Internet tools. Many thought rss would be replaced by Twitter it doesn't provide the same utility. I recall tools like netvibes, google reader, and others where I could consume vast amounts of information. Even the old pulse on iOS was great and was soon replaced by inferior versions. As the fall of rss tools happened, less sites published rss and we ended up in a negative reinforcing spiral.

Many people in this thread have given different reasons why they use RSS. I emphatically agree that it's important, even vital. I use Feedbin to report new items to me.

I just added RSS to my blog[0] after this thread reminded me, thanks. For anybody else who runs Jekyll it's about five minutes of work and well worth supporting the tech.[1]

[0]: http://softholmsyndrome.com/feed.xml

[1]: http://joelglovier.com/writing/rss-for-jekyll/

I read my news exclusively through RSS. Including Hacker News.

+1 for RSS; I use digg reader[1] multiple times per day

[1] https://digg.com/reader

(edit for spelling mistake)

I get my RSS fix on Feedly everyday.

I haves feeds grouped in the following Categories:

Tech News (all the major news tech sites which I check when I'm bored) Software (feeds from all the software I use so I get notified for updates etc). Photography (photography blogs I like to follow)

I still think its relevant and I actually find it very frustrating when I visit a site with content that could fit in RSS format but they don't publish a feed.

Yes! I use liferea to keep up to date on many things. e.g.

- You can watch your Github feed: it'll give you notifications of all pushes on repos you watch + things that people you follow do.

- You can watch JIRA and Confluence: I haven't found a better way to catch up on what happened overnight with the team members on other side of the world

- I subscribe to LWN.net for linux security alerts

- I subscribe to ~30 blogs of developers I respect

- I watch various comic strips.

People that still use it will think "of course!" and tell you so. People that don't use it anymore will think "probably not, but maybe; I wouldn't know myself" and thus be silent. So you have a high prior chance of getting a ton of "yes" answers even if the real answer is "no".

Aggregators like http://skimfeed.com use RSS/XML feeds to send you free traffic.

As a developer, you need to decide if it's worth your time to implement (it's a single database query and some layout code to build an RSS/XML feed, not difficult at all).

Either RSS itself is fading or RSS might be called something else these days according to Google Trends https://www.google.ca/trends/explore#q=%2Fm%2F0n5tx. I personally don't use RSS.

My RSS feed is like my bookmarks, except I actually read, listen to and watch the content that arrives by RSS.

Rawdog generates a new homepage for me a few times a day. I don't even have to put up with other people's crappy design and can enjoy information presented in my OWN crappy design.

You should add RSS, it's one of the most passive ways ro share your content and gain new inbound traffic, you users will thank you, all prominents news web/mobile applications make use of rss to distribute their content and get new inbound traffic.

From my opinion RSS it's a must for each content site. We use RSS at http://grobyk.com for news aggregation in this way we deliver to teams the best articles.

I would say it depends on your target market, but most of the time programming a RSS feed is pretty dang easy, so I would generally put it on my todo list for that type of site.

I used feeds to subscribe to content, but I prefer Atom to RSS.

I couldn't stay up to date on all the topics I'm interested in in an efficient manner without RSS. BTW I came here to comment through my HN RSS feed ;)

I wouldn't care about any website if it does not come with RSS. I've been using Digg Reader and it's been working flawlessly.

Although I use RSS everyday and every hour, I hate RSS because it is the reason why I am my procrastinating.

RSS is the best thing has discovered yet :D Are you joking? I'm using feedly constantly.

It is very simple to implement and provides immense utility to many. Definitely worth doing.

Nobody but techies use RSS, so it likely depends on the target clientele.

I cannot and don't want to imagine a web without RSS.

I use RSS or Atom to read content constantly.

Of course! Reading it from the diggreader.

I love RSS, I use it.

oh hell yes.

RSS +1

I use RSS heavily. Many people do. It is one of those things that is good as it is, so there's nothing to talk about.

I use inoreader.

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