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RSS is undead (techcrunch.com)
458 points by jpamata 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 269 comments

I'm a PhD student, and one of the things you quickly become aware of is the fire-hose of new science that is published daily. The discovery/prioritisation problem is being "solved" by publishers recommending other articles (published by them) on their website, or sites like ResearchGate (basically Facebook for academics and researchers) doing the same with similarly obscure algorithms.

I started a side project that pulls in RSS feeds from various academic publishers and uses a simple regression analysis based on tiles and abstracts to recommend you papers. I've become busy with my PhD but if anyone is interested, it's on github:


For machine learning there is the Arxiv Sanity Preserver, which can recommend new papers based on your library.


It didn't really preserve my sanity, though. I'm reading those papers in my spare time, and it got me to read many more papers than I ever did before.

Not seen that before (my field isn't comp sci or ML), but it looks great! Obviously web interface is the way to go for a serious project, but I actually found it fun learning how to implement an interactive command line app. It's incredibly responsive and has a four-key interface, so if you are good at skim reading you can train it with a lot of papers in very little time.

A bespoke solution (learns by your 'up votes') for any area of the ArXiv has been developed by Anton Lukyanenko: http://arxivist.com/

When i was a PhD student, i early on set up alerts on Zetoc [1] for tables of contents on the top journals in my area. A couple of weeks later, i wasn't even reading all of the tables of contents, let alone the papers.

What might have worked is getting together with a few like-minded students and postdocs and doing it collectively; it would have lowered the individual workload, and created a social pressure to actually do it. It could be a sort of superficial version of a journal club. Machine learning is cool, but in life sciences, it's traditional to solve problems by throwing more postdocs at them.

You could perhaps do this with human effort, but mediated (and perhaps assisted) by machine. Imagine a tiny HN instance with a handful of users, where the new page is fed from RSS. Or, at a larger scale, Reddit, with subs for various disciplines, and some process for routing RSS items to the appropriate subs.

[1] http://zetoc.jisc.ac.uk/

Interesting. I just happened to think of a new side-project for myself using RSS and Scrapy of which I'm familiar with Scrapy. Cool if you can parse RSS-feeds so easily with feedparser-library. Makes it probably quite easy compared to the Scrapy hacks I've done trying to navigate through a messy HTML-structure that has no unique identifiers whatsoever.

By the way you can easily put that thing into a Lambda without or with Serverless. I don't know do you need any data to be stored in S3 right now but it shouldn't take long to do it. =)

Using machine learning would be for my own project only in the far future but still, data science yo. Single layer neural network with one activation function or what was the great description someone gave here for linear regression.

This whole "RSS died" narrative illustrates a basic problem with how we understand the internet. Since there's no unified unbiased sort of "index", like GDP, to tell us just what proportion of users on the internet uses RSS anymore, we're stuck having to rely on socially propogated ideas about the state. This leads to all the typical problems with socially defined truth, such as drift as a consequence of incentives (or just random mutations due to statistically insignificant data, amplified by mimetics). Just remember that fact-space is only correlated, but not bijective, to common-sense-space.

Did you just try to apply category theory to semiotics?

After I wrote it I read it again, trying to get some grasp of the space of possible interpretations and associations people might think my ideas are stemming from. (The truth is that I have just formed a habit out of using this terminology, and don't always have an underlying unified geometric picture in my mind as I write it.) But your response is an interesting meditation on how often we users of the web (1) always read everything totally out of context, and thus (2) are especially adapted to always trying to infer what the actual network of associations the author intended to point to, but that (3) sometimes we make an incorrect assessment to the precise region of the map, and in fact (4) sometimes there is no such intended association at all.

I think that's what makes @dril so funny. He's incredibly skilled at walking the classification boundary of that mechanism.

Surely Google Reader had numbers that influenced the decision to shut it down?

Or just as likely the inability to monetize those users. Was there any indication that RSS viewership was dropping? I've been using RSS uninterrupted, every day, since the early 2000s. First on Google Reader and then, and now, using Tiny Tiny RSS.

I always find these articles about RSS being dead to be pretty funny, considering I'm usually reading them via RSS.

Thanks for saving me hassle of typing 100% of those same exact words.

When Google Reader went away I looked at a few of the hosted alternatives but found tt-rss early on and never looked back.

Is there an active site for that?

https://tt-rss.org/ seems to be gone/down.

It's up now.

I guess that the decision to shut the Reader down didn't appear due to lack of users, but rather ambitions to shape the internet-news-experience by more tightly controlled, proprietary apps like Google Currents/Newsstand or maybe even Plus.

I think that's pretty likely, because compare the continuing grousing about Reader having shut down to, umm... those other services that Google shut down, whatstheirnames...

Of course anything Google shuts down gets an immediate scream of pain from some people, but most everything else they've shut down has died out since then.

(The other one I still hear about is Wave. Though that one seems to have a lot of people lamenting what could have been, rather than what actually was. For Reader, the complaints are about what actually was.)

I'm sure they had, but what these numbers were and how they interpreted them is not known AFAIK. Google might have considered that RSS didn't fit with their long term plan for how the web would be consumed, I'm thinking in particular of AMP which has a certain overlap with RSS but gives Google a lot more control.

I see Google Reader mentioned a lot when virtually anything RSS-related comes up. I missed out on the whole RSS craze (prison will do that to you). But I have always wondered -- so many people lament the fact that Google killed it -- why hasn't anyone forked/cloned it's UI and feature-set? You don't want to just straight up copy it and wake the Google lawyers from their nests obviously, but why not make something that works the same way? Seems like that would be a popular project among the open source crowd.

> why hasn't anyone forked/cloned it's UI and feature-set?

There are clients that kind of did, but one of the cool things about Google Reader that a lot of people miss is the social feed. You could share articles you found interesting and your shares would show up on the feeds of anyone who followed you as just another RSS source. It's just an extra folder of articles from your GChat friends that you can read at your leisure.

And it's people selecting articles from their normal reading rotation, so it was refreshingly clear of clickbait. People usually shared stuff because they thought their friends would find it interesting rather than distributing content designed to "go viral."

Once the ecosystem fragmented nobody has the critical mass to replicate the social features. It was nicer than what Twitter or Facebook do because it wasn't in your face.

That sounds like... a fantastic idea! Why would they kill that off?! No easy way to inject ads into I guess (at least that people would be willing to put up with).

>Why would they kill that off?!

It happened back when "Social" was a big thing and Google was trying to push everyone onto its erstwhile Facebook competitor Google+ and it's erstwhile Twitter competitor Google Buzz.

First they killed the social feed and made the button auto-post to your Google Buzz account, but Buzz being a version of Twitter, had a lot more noise to signal so nobody used it that way.

They probably eventually killed it because they preferred having their development resources put towards more exotic social media efforts than maintaining a thing that didn't really make any money.

This long article has more of the sordid details if you're interested: https://www.buzzfeed.com/robf4/googles-lost-social-network?u...

Ah yes, G+, that resulted in the + being removed from the search field.

All thanks to an ex-MS "cookie licker" (the term was used by Google people after he left the company).

So, you are telling me that a person arrive to Google, broke the internet (by replacing the well behaved + with the annoying "") and then left to leave things worse than they were? Sad state of affairs...

dude! we want names

thanks I'll check that out

When Reader was killed, I switched to Feedly and haven't looked back. It took Reader's feature-set (at least, the features I care about) and has continued to provide a robust application for consuming news. I never used the social bits of Reader, though.

I second that. I am an avid Feedly user and a paying customer. It really filled up the huge void in Google Reader. I use Feedly it to consume RSS feeds.

Although nowadays they hide the feature in the interface, it is possible to subscribe to a feed by just pasting it in input text box when you are looking for new content.

thank you so much, happy to hear this. Petr from Feedly

why hasn't anyone forked/cloned it's UI and feature-set?

Somebody did, The Old Reader (theoldreader.com natch) was setup to be as close to Google Reader as possible. I've been a paying user since it launched shortly after the Google Reader shut down, very happy with the service.

There is noway I could keep up with the number of sources I like to keep up with without RSS. Not providing a useable RSS feed as a site is a dealbreaker for me: I will not come back regularly, if at all.

I've been using the oldreader (what a blessing) since Google Reader died (what a shame).

Love the google auth integration (as soon as I log in to my gmail, all my subscribtions are available, no matter what machine I am on ATM), but I never ever thought about paying for the service since it is more then complete for me as it is.

Maybe I should since I truly appreciate it and have found 0 alternatives over the years (and no, I am not going to roll my own, nor host anything, nor install apps across all my devices).

I tried The Old Reader as soon as it came up, but it was in an uncanny valley were it was not quite as good as Google's –or maybe I was just sad and feeling unappreciative– but recently I rediscovered it and became a paying user within the hour. I just wish I have saved my 500+ subscriptions OPML somewhere.

>I see Google Reader mentioned a lot when virtually anything RSS-related comes up.

As someone who relied on RSS for years, and did not use Google Reader, this equivalency between RSS and Google Reader annoys me greatly. Google didn't kill RSS. RSS is alive and well - almost all sites have a feed.

I used to have an RSS reader set up on my own server. For people who do not want to do that, just use an RSS software on your machine and update once a day.

I get similar annoyance with how gmail and email is now "synonymous", much thanks to the heavy handed nature of the gmail "spam" filer (anything not from a big name provider gets automatically binned, apparently).

Prison? Are you talking about marriage or a soul-less corp. job? May I ask what were you in for? Was it a low-security "resort" prison?

I wish it was just a soul sucking corporate job. At least you get paid more than 33 cents an hour for doing those jobs. but alas, no this was actual prison, and nothing so luxurious as Bernie Madoff's Camp Fluffy. This was prison prison in Michigan City, Indiana (and the last 6 months I was transferred to Pendelton, IN). I was down for 3 years of a 6 year sentence for 2 charges: Conspiracy to Distribute or Manufacture, and Trafficking in a Controlled Substance. This was before they switched from a 'Class A-B-C-D' felony classification system to a 'Level 1-2-3-4' system, so my 2 charges were a Class C and a Class B (effectively a Level 3 and a Level 2 nowadays). TLDR; I was a drug dealer. For a long time. I was extremely good at it. I sold all of them, but the ones I ended up being charged with were Heroin (at least 10 grams, which bumped it up from a C to a B class) and 80mg OxyContins ("green hornets").

Incidentally, at the time, the laws were such that if my house had been located 200 feet closer to a school than it was, I would most likely still be in prison. I got lucky there, the laws were "within 1000 feet of a school" and my house was somewhere between 1100-1200, and even though I absolutely NEVER sold anything out of my house it would not have mattered. The prosecutor went so far as to send surveyors to my property and dig up the blueprints of my house from City Hall and measure out the property lines and distances. I think I saw steam shoot out of that lady's ears when my lawyer read the surveyor's report in court. She was pissed.

Well congratulations on making it out and getting out of that business. Were you assaulted in prison? Why were you good at drug dealer? (I thought most drug dealers make little income...unless it's wholesaling.)

[I can only speak for what I experienced personally, and what facilities I was in and passed thru along the way. It varies from place-to-place and state-to-state based on many factors]

Assaulted no. Did I have to fight? You bet. Inside, if you don't protect yourself and/or stand up for what's rightfully yours then you're not going to have a good time at all. At some point someone who is bigger, stronger, tougher, whatever than you _IS_ going to attempt to take all your shit. It's more of a test than anything else, to see what you will let people get away with. If you don't stand up for yourself, well, prison is full of predators especially if you're in a medium or higher security facility. This does not apply if your charges are for anything to do with hurting children or extreme violence against women -- in that case they're never going to stop coming... ever.

Word from the older guys who had been in there for a long time is that prison isn't what it once was in the 70's and 80's. Bad inmate on inmate assaults is almost always gang related, forcible rape doesn't really happen [at least in the facilities I was in and passed thru along the way] because they don't really have to do that -- there are plenty of willing participants (with exceptions for internal gang retaliation, but it would have to be something major). Another big change that reduced a lot of violence was they started giving people additional criminal charges, "outside cases" to use prison parlance, for crimes they commit inside such as stabbings, murders, serious contraband, etc. instead of just doing internal institutional discipline. This also cut way down on inmate vs. corrections officer violence -- stabbing a guard now became attempted murder of a law enforcement official -- an A felony, 20 more years to your sentence minimum.

That's not to say it's fun or peaceful or anything, it's still prison, still a city within walls segregated intensely by race and where you grew up, and there are some truly messed up people in there. It's 90% boredom 5% loneliness, and 5% small bouts of intense violence. But if you carry yourself with dignity, don't do anything stupid, and don't back down when challenged (particularly over something petty) you'll be allright.

Thanks again for answering.

I never understood why use a browser for doing something that should naturally be done in a native app.

Shutting down Reader had zero effect on my RSS reading habits.

Oh no, no, no, no. You're reading web things, you need it inside a browser. You middle click a link and it opens inside a new tab, just like that. Native clients and their embedded web views never work the way you expect them to be, and ugh, there's a link to something inside facebook and I'm not logged in... should I go back and right click -> "Open in browser", nah, forget it.

That's why I'm happy to rediscover the old reader. It is not only not a native app, it doesn't try to act like one.

This issue must exist only in poorly made apps, no? At least Android is designed such that it should be natural to navigate views across different apps as though they belonged to one. Apps aren't really emphasised under the hood as much as specific views are.

Maybe it is a desktop versus mobile thing? I prefer a web app in the desktop, but yeah, a native app makes more sense in web.

I did not say anything about web views, I just stated using native apps.

Webviews are unwelcome.

RSS never (un)died for me. I run FreshRSS[1]. It works well on shared hosting and it runs on SQLite (no migration troubles!).

The best thing about it is escaping the algorithmically curated feeds.

Every and service that I use has an RSS feed, except for Twitter. I use https://twitrss.me/ to follow users. If you don't find a feed, sometimes you just have to dig a little. You learn at which URIs the most commons CMSes presents their Atom/RSS feeds (hello /feed/).

[1] https://freshrss.org/

When I created my personal website I thought: “Eh, if anyone asks for RSS I’ll make it then.” To my surprise I started getting asked after the second article! It didn’t take long to code up (relative paths to full urls was the biggest hurdle—but not exactly hard) and it’s kinda nice knowing that people can just follow the content without having to be lucky enough to see an article go by on Twitter.

I am guilty of emailing or otherwise attempting to contact authors for a feed link for their blog. It's often because I have become really engaged with one of their articles, read a few more and developed a hunger to see their fresh work.

Twitter is just a firehose, but my aggregated feeds are categorized and hand picked so I am far more likely to catch content I'm interested in on there and therefore be much more engaged with it.

This has been my experience as well. Granted, my audience is primarily tech people, but man do they want a feed. I had no idea.

(I am curious though, I may just try using feeds myself.)

> The best thing about it is escaping the algorithmically curated feeds.

Honestly, I don't think algorithmically curated feeds are a problem. The main problem is the goal of the given algorithm which is often trying to maximize someone else's profit rather than minimize your time reading the feed...

That being said, I am always amazed at the ability of my brain to go through my feed and filter the interesting out quickly.

> The main problem is the goal of the given algorithm which is often trying to maximize someone else's profit rather than minimize your time reading the feed...

True that. Sadly, that is the business model for the larger part of the internet. My use of RSS is partly a way of trying to escape that.

Every feed algorithm's goal is to maximize someone else's profit. Ergo, feed algorithms are the problem.

Did RSS ever die?

I've migrated from Google Reader to TTRSS when I was forced to make a change.

Then a few months ago TTRSS started to act up and started making bold claims like "your database doesn't respond" so I moved over to FreshRSS which was a much bigger improvement than I thought that it would be to begin with.

Runs fine using Postgres as a database.

> Then a few months ago TTRSS started to act up and started making bold claims like "your database doesn't respond"

Oh, exactly what happened to me. All kinds of strange errors, especially after upgrades. I eventually gave up and found FreshRSS. Been running (and updating) it over a year, without a single problem.

Thanks for the twitrss.me link -- I don't use Twitter, but I follow a couple of journalists who do, and my RSS reader is much better than Twitter's website, with its semi-random threading and light-boxes. I've run NetNewsWire since forever, and it's easy to add a few Twitter feeds in their own folder. If I have time, I'll scan through them; if not, Command-K and they're all gone.

This article really overstates RSS's problems, and underestimates "users," who it seems to view as epsilon semi-morons attached to credit cards. On the reader side, it's simply not that hard to control the rate of things you receive, and to quickly scan them for things you want to read. On the publisher side, it's trivial to keep track of the number of people subscribed to your feed(s). And if you want to know how long each of them spent on each article, and where their mouse cursor and eyeballs pointed that whole time, then too bad -- you are part of what's wrong with today's media ecosystem.

Twitter offered a RSS feed directly. But they disabled it, with their "new" API, because of some bogus reason.

They had a very simple reason, they can't show ads in the RSS feed.

There's nothing stopping ads in RSS feeds, just tracking. Those should be separate things.

>There's nothing stopping ads in RSS feeds, just tracking. Those should be separate things.

Bingo. Plenty of my RSS feeds have ads, they just publish them as articles and say "This RSS feed is sponsored by. . ."

It's the same ad model as podcasts basically.

Other ones just give you an abstract or short blurb on your feed with a link to go back to the main site, which works just as well.

I always thought of a "marketing" "reason". Like "we want people on our site" which is not the case when a user reads postings with a RSS reader. At the same time they restricted apps more. Which, was probably because ads.

This seems like a weird article. People are advocating for RSS to avoid “the algorithm” and to increase privacy. Yet the author recommends adding analytics (tracking) and a way for publishers to indicate priorities. No. That’s the opposite of why people are again pushing RSS.

If you want a read count, then add pingback urls and make the protocol support it so various feed aggregators can report true numbers.

Curation should happen at the client, not the protocol. Tagging various feeds works well for me.

> No. That’s the opposite of why people are again pushing RSS.

Maybe the opposite of why users are pushing for RSS, but without analytics content producers have reasonable justification for being hostile instead.

Analytics are a hell of a drug. Analytics gave us A/B tested clickbait and listicles. I appreciate it's hard to go cold turkey, but maybe it's even harder to have an analytics system and use it responsibly?

> but maybe it's even harder to have an analytics system and use it responsibly?

I'd say it absolutely is harder--on the one hand, you have an opportunity for more money. On the other hand, you have the mass of users that have proven that they don't care enough to react against irresponsible use in any meaningful way.

Simple decision in a business context.

> react against irresponsible use in any meaningful way.

Not all reaction is direct. It's a bit like other polluting industries; you can keep doing it right up to the point where public opinion turns on the industry as a whole, and onerous regulations get imposed. I think GDPR is a taste of this.

I think that under-simplifies the dynamic: public opinion is changed slowly and painfully through consistent advocacy efforts that publicize abuses, while the abusing industries fight back and regain ground at least some of the time.

But yeah, more GDPR-like moves would be fantastic.

Pandora's box. Can't put things back.

I just try to avoid screens and spend time with books in my free time. I still succumb to the infinite scroll thing with the reddit mobile app -- until just this weekend I didn't actually have the adequate lighting fixtures in every place in my home where I lay back to relax.

(Books. Not "ebooks".)

Facebook and RSS will both die before books do.

Which is why I suggested the middle ground of a pingback URL that clients or services can hit to give the publishers certain stats like aggregated counts. If certain publishers are not ok with those limitations there will still be a bunch of people writing blog posts that are not so concerned.

Clients are supposed to be user agents, they shouldn't be doing anything in the interest of the publishers especially when it's hostile to the user. It's a shame browsers have lost site of that, let's not let RSS readers forget as well, that would be the real death of RSS.

> there will still be a bunch of people writing blog posts that are not so concerned.

I assume that 80-90% of blogs already have RSS, just due to default configurations. Seems to me the context here is about pushing adoption and design significantly beyond that, both in terms of consumers and producers.

I can't say for certain that a pingback URL system would be acceptable, but I strongly suspect a dramatic comeback requires drastic measures.

Most of the problems the author mentions are, to me, the actual reasons I love RSS.

No filtering. No comments. No proposal. No central way to find them.

It's not the absence of curation.

It's my curation.

It's easy: I like a site, I want news, I get the RSS. I delete it when it's not to my taste anymore.

The basic, deterministic, manual aspect of it is what's right with it. Not what's wrong.

Another weird idea is that RSS should be for everybody. No. It speaks to a certain kind of people, and that's fine.

> No filtering.

Shameless(-ish) plug for my project, siftrss: https://siftrss.com/

You add a source feed, include/exclude items by keyword or regex match, and get a new filtered feed to subscribe to. Because it produces a normal RSS feed like any other, it works with all RSS readers.

It's totally free. No ads, no account, no email capture, nothing but totally disposable RSS feed filters.

Hmm, you might want to know (or already do) that Feedly just added keyword filtering - brings in some competition :)

I did see that a while back—I'm actually a Feedly user myself!

I haven't looked at their implementation much, but I imagine it only works on Feedly itself whereas siftrss is meant to be totally agnostic to what reader you use. The tool also supports regex, so you can do some slightly richer matching with siftrss.

It actually works everywhere, you just have to create the Mute Filters in Feedly. Petr from Feedly

Nice! I may use this to add more feeds to my ruby news aggregator at http://rubyland.news , cool?

Hmm, I wonder if there's a way to use it to turn a Medium feed into something useful. (By default, a medium feed is not, as it contains all comments by the author interspersed with actual stories/posts, with no obvious way for software to distinguish).

Cool indeed!

As for Medium feeds, it's all about whether or not you can find a pattern in the data to exploit. For instance, maybe links for comments contain "/c/" whereas links for posts contain "/p/" or something similar. There is, of course, no guarantee that there is anything to exploit or that what is exploitable won't change—that's the joy of dealing with third-parties! :)

Does siftrss do anything like Full-Text RSS [1] to transform partial web feeds into full feeds? Quite a few of the websites I subscribe to only show summaries of the articles.

[1] http://fivefilters.org/content-only/

Nope, currently siftrss is geared totally toward filtering the content which exists in the feed already. The goal is to keep the tool good at doing that one thing.

That is a neat idea, though!

That's because the author is a tool of the global ad-tech agenda, writing articles with click-bait headlines. RSS isn't a particularly profitable utility to inject ads into, or suck personal info out of (less cookies, no pixels, makes an MBA yawn in meetings), so I guess that means it's "dead" right?

Oh noes! Markdown is dead!

Oh noes! SOAP XML is dead!

Oh noes! RESTful JSON is dead!

How the fuck would a non-coding journalist know the difference?

Ars technica does something nice: for a very low fee (European perspective) you get the full articles in your RSS.

Plus they remove tracking and ads on the web page.

Should be win/win since we all hate tracking, ads and never click on them anyway and still actually want to reward sources we read, right?

Ars is the only news site I actually have a subscription for. I'd always appreciated their journalism, and learning about the fulltext RSS feed was the feature that got me to sub. I'd love to see more sites offering that option.

Danny Crighton has a CS degree from Stanford. I'm not entirely convinced by the article either, but your criticism would be a bit more credible if you managed to avoid being factually wrong.

You can have a CS degree and never code.

I had one of those around (in a manager position of course) that told me in a meeting: "I don't see why you make it seems like it's hard and needs planning to get an app for project X. It's just some embedded html and with HTML5 you get geolocation so it'll be easy and quick. Besides our contractor already has an app so he just needs to add some javascript to it".

What in the article required being an active programmer?


That said, i have encountered many a myopic active programmer...

Well Said !

Certainly not in Portuguese universities, unless you got the degree with some "help", like a few of our politicians.

I'd avoid saying anything at all if the article wasn't factually wrong about RSS being a disused format.

And there's nothing factually wrong about RSS providing weaker data to ad-tech survellance. The only reason it's being pushed back onto the front burner, is because the Facebook election botch has got everyone spooked about analytics trackers, and lots of richer sources are going dark, putting RSS back on an even footing with the usual web tracker data sources, because everyone is blocking thirdparty scripts and resources.

Meanwhile, pretty sure the guy is operating as a tool for a paycheck sourced from the industry the article serves, and having qualifications only helps to support such theories, since credibility makes the opinion of a stooge all the more valuable. Maybe I should lump you in with him.

> Another weird idea is that RSS should be for everybody. No. It speaks to a certain kind of people, and that's fine.

Well, that's fine as long as that group of people is big enough for the sites I care about to consider it worthwhile enough to actually add an RSS feed :)

Adding an RSS feed is easy. Individual writers and hosts have no good reason for not including them. For groups / publishing houses that are not techinically bent generally use publishing platforms that generally support them. For the minority thats excluded from the above, hey, just a shout out and someone will be ready to help (me included). But thats not the real problem, the lack of ads on rss feeds (which is its biggest appeal to me) warrants the lack of attention rss feeds get.

Easy is something else than no effort at all. Wordpress by default comes with RSS feeds enabled, but e.g. Jekyll doesn't - and I've seen many static sites even by tech-savvy people or for software libraries that hadn't enabled them. That means I have to contact site owners to enable their RSS feeds before I'm able to subscribe to them. And that's just when they're using a package like Jekyll that already has RSS support baked in.

As the OP, I love RSS.

But let's not pretend it's always easy.

You gotta take in consideration the filters, the configuration, the cache, if you support rss and atom, the routing, and how you integrate it in your design.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

RSS IS easy. Filtering, caching, routing, fancy features are not. I’m okay with a poor RSS feed over none.

RSS never died. On the contrary, its usage for content aggregation & monitoring has been increasing over the years, specially in the business world and niche markets.

I'm speaking from my own experience running a growing & profitable startup, Feedity - https://feedity.com, that helps with custom feeds for unstructured sources like webpages.

Our upcoming API and content explorer (a different kind of 'feed reader') have received thumbs-up from some customers who opted for early-testing.

+1. I start each morning in the office by firing up my RSS aggregator. Have been since the early days of Google Reader. I can skim through my feeds in minimal time, especially when compared to any other alternative.

This makes me smile to hear. It looks like you have a great product - I remember maybe a year or two ago a similar provider went under due to lack of interest, but I think they were targeting the wrong market by aggregating users social media into a personal feed.

The important things is to keep the limiting/filtering features client-side. That keeps the user in control and the power dynamic in balance. The protocol should provide as much information as possible (priority level, tags, maybe even attributes for brand name or a logo image link), and it should be up to the client to provide the best possible experience given that information. That also allows for different clients for different types of users.

One thing that could also be interesting is standardizing subscription/donation information as part of the protocol itself. So that users can easily do those things across all their sources at once (via their client), rather than going to separate websites and walking through their unique subscription forms.

No one has mentioned NewsBlur yet. It's fantastic as an RSS reader, and provides intelligence training (filtering) for only subjects you might be interested in, allowing you to tame high-rate RSS feeds quite easily: http://newsblur.com/

NewsBlur is excellent, and a great way to collate all my feeds across categories (quant finance, ML/data science, CS/tech, science, humanities). I have been a happy subscriber since 2013, and I use it on an approximately daily basis.

When Reader shut down I migrated to newsblur, vowing to pay for things I really use, so RSS never died for me :)

Thanks for the reminder. I just recovered my account and I'll give a try to the intelligent filtering.

Tip: if the RSS doesn't have proper tagging, you can select words in the title you wan't to use as a match :-)

Can this be self-hosted?

It is not really meant for self hosting. Newsblur is build to scale and basicly needs 3 servers/envirements (app, db, task) and also Sentry, Redis, Celery, RabbitMQ, Postresql, MongoDB and Elasticsearch running.

You certainly can - the code is on GitHub with install instructions. I considered self-hosting but it's cheaper to just pay the yearly subscription fee. Also I feel good about paying for a service that respects me by opening the source and by giving me the ability to export if I want.

Click on the Github icon on bottom of the page and find out ;)

The Movim (https://movim.eu/) social network is relying heavily on the XMPP Pubsub standard.

All the articles published on the network are actually Atom elements (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom_(Web_standard)), it's then super easy to import and export Atom/RSS feeds in XMPP (for example https://nl.movim.eu/?feed/pubsub.movim.eu/Movim).

On top of that Pubsub brings you a fully real-time solution (no need to pull hundreds of feeds each 15min, the articles comes to you) with roles, subscriptions, comments (also relying on Atom, see https://xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0277.html) and many other things :)

Only Android 5.0 and up :(

It's actually because older versions of Android doens't have a browser up to date enough to support Movim (see https://github.com/movim/movim_android/issues/1). Sorry about that.

You can still access Movim using any other browsers (Chrome, Firefox) on your phone and bookmark it on your launcher with a similar result :) The Android app is basically a wrapper around a WebView.

Cool, yeah, I'm "stuck" with my old, tiny smartphone but I'm quite reluctant to change it (I even refuse to call it an upgrade [shakes fist]). But it's really insecure and slow also... I have a similar problem with Firefox, no updates since 55.0.2.

But Movim looks really great, I should give it a go, thanks for the links!

I don't know if this is as much of a comeback for RSS as a comeback for self-hosted services.

I needed RSS enough to self-host Fever (on A Small Orange which is a POS that I need to migrate from, if anyone can recommend me a simple and user-friendly alternative).

Similarly, I've been waiting for Pinry to release version 2, but this seems to have eluded the team for a few years unfortunately.

It physically hurts when I see people purge their tweet history, because I can't imagine giving up all that history, especially when you can at least export your stuff first - which doesn't include your likes and DMs.

I don't think the latest Instagram/Facebook/Twitter brouhaha has been a vindication for RSS per se, but definitely one for self-hosting, especially as services die or get acquired left and right.

You might be cute and argue that for RSS being such a big deal, there sure aren't any overnight successes 15+ years in the making to migrate to at this point. I know Maciej Ceglowski of Pinboard fame was working on an RSS reader, but that seems to have stalled. And Digg just shut down theirs, which was really good. Fever is also shut down, but that doesn't matter much when it's self-hosted - except for the crazy fees ASO is charging people like me.

Personally I've really enjoy The Old Reader for my RSS feeds. Not really a fan of the social aspects of it and it's not self hosted, which if it's a requirement for you this doesn't fill.

I've used SelfOSS which was fine, but didn't like some of the feeds I tried to import. It's pretty lightweight though and based on your like of Fever this seems like it might be a little too light.

I'm sure I'm going over stuff you've head of with Tiny Tiny RSS, so I won't go into that too much.

A really small shared hosting reseller with decent support I've used for years is Hole In The Wall Hosting. It isn't a big operation but it just works and does what you need it to do, SSH is extra but the plans are relatively inexpensive.

> I think the solution is a set of improvements. RSS as a protocol needs to be expanded so that it can offer more data around prioritization as well as other signals critical to making the technology more effective at the reader layer.

Maybe it's a failure of my imagination, but I'm having trouble coming up with anything at the protocol level that wouldn't make RSS worse as a general protocol, though it might improve at specific cases.

Leave the protocol simple, let innovation happen at the client level, and then if necessary enhance the protocol to support generally effective solutions.

"4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.

5. All the Internet's value grows on its edges."


If you're considering giving RSS a try, here are a few of my favorite services:

Inoreader, a fantastic Google Reader clone that supports advanced filtering and following Twitter feed. https://www.inoreader.com/

HNRSS, for seeing all comments with some words. https://hnrss.org/

Nice paid service for visually scraping pages into RSS feeds https://feedity.com/

Convert summary feeds into full text feeds http://fivefilters.org/content-only/

I just tried out that fivefilters full text service on my own blog (which shamefully only provides summaries in the feeds) and it worked seamlessly. I shall be using it in the future.

> ...many of these challenges are ultimately problems with the underlying protocol itself...

> ...It’s an exhausting experience wading through articles from the style and food sections just to run into the latest update on troop movements in the Middle East.

> Some sites try to get around this by offering an array of RSS feeds built around keywords. Yet, stories are almost always assigned more than one keyword, and keyword selection can vary tremendously in quality across sites. Now, I see duplicate stories and still manage to miss other stories I wanted to see.

None of this is a problem with the protocol. The protocol just publishes a list of stories.

If people want a feed of the "most important" stories, you can build that. You can let people build their own personal feeds based on tags, popularity, or any set of rules imaginable, and you can de-dupe the items in that feed.

I used to subscribe to a podcast feed on The Conversations Network (no longer operating) which they let me personalize to include a mix of episodes from a variety of their podcasts. That was RSS.

RSS has nothing to do with how you determine which stories to publish on which feed.

The complaint that prioritization is needed is bullshit. You can already achieve that through multiple RSS feeds once your feed has become too big for users to follow. You can even do categorization, which is what is really wanted/needed here.

More importantly, this is already solved by RSS readers. All the online RSS services I've tried have algorithmic feed ordering options for those who want it. This means that users who want algorithmic sorting/filtering can not only get it but also have their choice of providers.

More importantly, people like me who prefer to manually prune their sources and only subscribe to things they're actually interested in seeing can still do so. You can get a quick overview of what's trending and I can do a deep dive into what I like. Everyone wins.

> losing your logo, colors, and fonts on an article is an effective way to kill enterprise value

Dropping the garbage styles is one of my favorite things about RSS. Using my TT-RSS via phone app is a lot speedier than the "enterprise value" provided by the native site.

This article loads 3.97MB with an adblocker. In TT-RSS, I can load the homepage and a full-page RSS article from Ars Technica for only 600kb.

Exactly. In fact, this is a tremendous advantage that RSS has. The assertion that it needs some "sort of commerce layer" is not an issue of the technology, but a question of the industry of advertising and the structure of the economy. The problem of keywords as the author mentions is a cultural one, based on the way our society exchanges and prioritizes the information we receive.

I think the author's wording is perfect. It's not "user value" they're concerned about, it's "enterprise value".

It's interesting, because that functionality is why I mentally usually draw parallels between AMP and RSS. Except AMP seems to have better success pushing management to implement it, which is probably due to Google's prominent placement of articles that have AMP versions available.

Don't call it a comeback - RSS never went away.

I find the "pull" model of RSS much nicer to deal with than the "push" model of twitter and facebook. You simply cannot keep up with your twitter feed if you add 20 or 30 publishers that tweet every day. But those same 20 or 30 publishes in an RSS reader are easy to deal with.

Of course, the publishers dislike RSS because it messes with their metrics, discourages stickiness, and makes advertising difficult. 3 things that aren't my problem.

RSS is the core of my Reddit alternative. Still improving performance though http://handlr.sapico.me/Home/Newest

I currently use it for personal bookmarking and posting stories to HN.

It's based on tags, eg. http://handlr.sapico.me/Home/ByTag?Name=artificial-intellige...

Ps. Performance is slow on the main page for sorting calculated columns ( eg. The Algorithm ), that's why I linked to the newest page

The "receive new content" modal is really annoying. It appears every time my mouse exits through the top of the page, so it pops up every time I change tabs.

Yeah, I use it for myselve and I'm always logged in ( doesn't happen then). Will change that after improving performance

Same here. I had used RSS less frequently as I used aggregators like Digg and Reddit more. But after leaving reddit last month I found a lot of the old URLs had decayed.

No problem. Most had just moved URL slightly or changed format so finding them on the http site was easy enough. And while finding the new RSS URLs I often checked out the entire blogroll/webring/etc too and found new feeds to subscribe to.

For me RSS is wasn't ever dead. But it may have been left to itself in the nursing home for a few years.

I think we killed it :)

Back alive atm ( disabled RSS sync :p )

If anyone knows how to performantly sort on non deterministic computed columns ( eg. the ranking algorithm for votes of posts + comments) in MS SQL server -> https://dba.stackexchange.com/questions/203331/slow-calculat... i'd be very happy :p, it's killing my "trending topic" performance...

Edit: added non deterministic

You don't do the calculation on the fly, you do it at data mutation time (if the column should be the same for every client) or in a separate "thread" (eg, a script). Basically, you pre calculate the column and simply add it to your table, indexed.

It's non deterministic because it has a time variation ( newer posts get ranked higher).

Even then?

Don't modify the scores of old posts, start newer ones with a higher score.

Check out how reddit does it: https://medium.com/hacking-and-gonzo/how-reddit-ranking-algo...

The concept is that the time-based part of the score is immutable, fixed at post creation time.

That way you only have to recalculate when a score-modifying event occurs, not every time the page is refreshed.

Good advice, thx!

you've got to double tap to make sure, rules of surviving rss is undead land.

I still love RSS like many people in this thread. I've been using them to aggregate and publicise a lot of the content that the developers we work with create https://web.gdedeck.com/ (I created an aggregation client for myself) and likewise our team is starting to publish more activities https://devwebfeed.appspot.com - RSS is a great fit for consumption and sharing...

However there are still a lot of issues that I see.

* discovery is still an issue - more and more people are removing link rel alternate from their content so it's becoming harder to find the feeds.

* ATOM vs RSS is still a thing even though all the feeds that I parse are actually mostly ATOM namespaced RSS feeds.

* syndication and push - Pubsubhubbub is still hard and not widely supported.

* Cross-Origin and HTTPS - for my needs I'd love to be able to fetch content directly from a web client and not have to proxy the content, however the web's sandbox model means that I need the pages to be on https and have the correct CORS headers - there's no clear incentive though for publishers to support this though.

I would love to see the resurgence of RSS and other public protocol enabled start-ups and solutions. This is the time.

RSS is also a prolific engine for curation, given how flexible and extendable the protocol is. The emergence of expert-run email digest frenzy should be built on foundation of RSS, where individuals can parse hundreds of sources and quickly construct a digest for easy circulation.

I can definitely see RSS taking off in the future more than ever.

We finally are getting to standard formats in the digital age. JSON obviously is the leader in storing object data. RSS would be great for making multi-platform content.

As a programmer and content creator, writing something 1 time and it working everywhere is the future.

As a guy who uses Feedly every day, I am glad to pay for it, and I hope to keep RSS in some state of life support for as long as I can.

I still don't quite understand the fascination with video content: It's completely synchronous; a 10 minute video takes up 10 min of my time, with limited ability to consume more efficiently. Textual information puts the control back in my hands, with the ability to aggregate content and quickly consume. RSS has been the best way to do so while avoiding the dross that every social network has devolved into.

Thank you so much for supporting us! Petr from Feedly

> RSS as a protocol needs to be expanded so that it can offer more data around prioritization as well as other signals critical to making the technology more effective at the reader layer.

"We have to ruin RSS in order to save it."

No thank you. The "features" he wants to add to RSS are the very features that users are trying to get away from by switching to RSS.

The reason RSS is still here, is that things like feedly, inoreader, and others that filled the google reader gap continue to have millions of loyal users and just about every blog and news publisher still publishes rss feeds because it is easy to do and you lose potential clicks if you don't. Google killed Google reader to make buzz work (failed) and the several other thingies they have been pushing since (also failing).

FB, twitter, and the "more of the same old shit" algorithms that they try to pass as machine learning are currently failing in the market. FB is losing users because it has nothing interesting to show to them and because they have been taken hostage by paying customers that depend on idiots clicking on click bait. Twitter is desperately trying to get rid of real time because they believe it is more "interesting" to keep week old tweets on top that are somehow "more relevant".

The branding thing is a bit disingenuous; this is really about ads and tracking. Good luck with that, blocking all of it like most serious users these days and also GDPR is not going to help your cause.

RSS as a publishing mechanism is fine. The firehose needs work though. It needs reliable filtering, curation, and aggregation. That's the gap filled by hacker news and other aggregators. And having access to the firehose is nice sometimes.

Google Buzz died first in December 2011. Google Reader died in July 2013.

You don't use RSS to follow news sites. You use RSS to follow infrequently updated sites so you don't have to keep checking them to see if there's any new content. It still works for this purpose and most sites that fit this format still have RSS or Atom feeds.

Seeing how faster it is for me (compared to the web interface) to keep up to date with HackerNews after the weekend, I disagree. RSS is excellent to sift and pick many articles.

RSS feeds for Hacker News? Please elaborate.

Not OP but I use feedly which has hackerNews as a source. Minimal digging and I found this third party HN feed provider:


This is exactly how i use RSS. It's so convenient to have one place instead of checking dozens of blogs that only get updated once in a while.

Please stop claiming that RSS died, it didn't. Most of the new sites and blogs i come across usually have an RSS feed buried somewhere, so a more apt metaphor would be that it was buried alive, it didn't die. And please stop trying to feature creep RSS, it doesn't need any more "features". I already wrote about this recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15675823

Yep, in 2013 Google Reader was axed. Feedly alone went up 500k users in 48 hours, 3 million within a few weeks and 12 million by the end of the year. Given that this definitely represents active consumers and probably only represents a proportion of the total number of consumers, the numbers aren't trivial. They aren't facebook level (or even twitter level) but there's enough to say that RSS isn't dead.

"Died" means "no one is talking about it". But that could just as well be a consequence of it doing its job without fault, silently being a good boy in the background, rather than any depletion of use.

It also flies in the face of the walled garden approach that has slowly infected the internet

Not only sites and blogs, Mailchimp newsletters also support RSS feeds, which means that a lot of newsletters can be consumed by RSS readers.

A agree that it never really died, it's just hiding.

It's hiding very well, thanks to browser manufacturers, unfortunately. Back in the day, my browser (from memory, any of the major browsers) alerted me, via an icon, when a site provided an RSS feed and clicking on that icon subscribed me to the feed. That was a much nicer situation than the 'View Source, CTRL-F "rss", Copy' dance I have to do nowadays.

In Firerox you can add the Subscribe button back to the toolbar using the personalization UI. They shouldn't hide this feature as much in my opinion, but it is still much better than manually looking for a feed URI in the source.

For anyone that's curious, there are extensions out there that do this now. I use [RSS Menu](http://calum.me/wp/) for Safari.

> Instead, users want personalization and prioritization

All news sources I can think of implement prioritisation.

Do users really want personalisation? Do you remember your Dad saying pre-web "oh, I just want a newspaper personalised to me, so I don't read outside of my core interests" or did he just sometimes read, sometimes skip less immediately-relevant articles? I'm not sure anyone really wants to live in a bubble, just some tech companies decided they should.

Lots of personalization bubbles are fantastically useful.

I prefer local news from my neighborhood over news from a neighborhood in another city in another state. I prefer technically detailed articles about software development over technically detailed articles about dog grooming. I choose feeds and sources that filter in my favor.

Your dad always had the option of subscribing to the Wall Street Journal or People if their local paper didn’t cover business or celebrity gossip extensively enough.

Maybe not bubbles all the way down, but it’s close.

Good point. Maybe the issue is user-controlled, opt-in style personalization versus opaque, algorithmic, A-B-tested-on-other-people personalization.

I'm definitely in favor of personally choosing what to subscribe to, but algorithms are very far from where I would trust them to make those choices for me.

Here are some things that would be useful for me, but that I don't currently know how to access easily.

* A feed for all updates to a news story for a given news source

* A feed for all updates and developments for a news story across all news sources.

* A feed for all updates for a given area for a given news source. More specific than 'news category', more general than one specific thread of events.

* Feed for all updates for a given area (as above) across all news sources.

* [Client] Functionality to subscribe to related or more specific feeds from a given feed.

* Functionality to see related commentary for a given item from given forums (for each story I'm interested in I will normally look at HN or reddit comments).

I'm sure all these exist, but I haven't dug deep enough to find them yet.

For 2) you might want to look at GDELT. It is a big feed, so you might not want it on your phone, but a 5$ VM should do the job. It lacks 1), from what I remember, but that's about it.

FYI: Find another undead feed parser library (in ruby) @ https://github.com/feedparser Build the next facebook! The future of online news is... news feeds. See my humble talk notes from a tech meetup last year - https://github.com/geraldb/talks/blob/master/webfeeds2.md

RSS will never die, as long as podcasts are using it (and podcasting IS booming around the world right now). Many thought it dead even in the podcasting world, yet there is no viable alternative and there won't be in the next few years. A bit of a Javascript-y situation.

Standard formats are working great in 2018.

RSS is the javascript of text.

Intense RSS user as I am, I don’t think the recent hype of RSS practical and scalable for daily users.

Algorithm-generated feeds are mostly critisized for buidling filter bubbles and leading to dependency, but either can be avoided by simply switching to RSS. It is you who choose what to subscribe to in RSS, and it’s hard to imagine many people would offense themselves by subscribing to sources contrasting their own ideologies. And any experienced RSS user will understand the stress of out-of-control unread counts, which easily leads to the crumbling of your RSS-based reading system.

You may be like, “well, I’m nimble at selecting non-biased sources and spend a health time on my RSS feed.” Congrats, but one as rational and restrained as you is also unlikely to be solicited or tricked by News Feed. On the other way, you can’t expect one inclined to be biased and addicted to crappy stories to become less so just by using RSS instead.

And that’s without mentioning the high technical barrier of RSS that filters ordinary users away. For many popular content providers, there’s no full text output, even no conspicuous feed address. Shall I suggest my mom switching to RSS and subscribing to her favorite WeChat official accounts by setting up an Linux server running web crawler? I haven’t be nerdy enough to do that.

I do love the simplicity and transparency of RSS but don’t really think something invented in the 1990s can solve the problem of 2010s and decades to come. When the density of information available reaches a certain bar, you have to turn to something like algorithm. Being arbitrary and black-boxed is not inherently a problem. Haven’t we been happy with the works of DJs, curators, and food writers? What can be more arbitrary and black-boxed than we human? What needs be changed the most is not the tool people use to get information, but the mindset with which people live with the torrent of information in such a post-scarcity era of contents.

> And any experienced RSS user will understand the stress of out-of-control unread counts, which easily leads to the crumbling of your RSS-based reading system.

Do not follow newspapers through RSS. That's the golden advice. Most often they have daily or weekly digest newsletters (NY Times and Guardian has excellent ones), use them instead. More generically, use periodical digests for high-volume news sources, and RSS for following websites that post anything less frequent than a couple or so times a day.

I was really wondering if I should chip in Feedpresso here (that I've been developing) to avoid shameless promo but your writing struck a chord with me.

All of the things you mentioned there, is basically a reason why I started Feedpresso. After GReader was shut down, and after I got pissed with unread counts from a local newspaper on Feedly, I've put some basic probabilistic machine learning together to "avoid a mess" (what a strange thing to do - to avoid a mess, you start an even bigger one :-D).

One thing led to another, and I have to say Feedpresso is a pretty decent reader that is easy to use (my dad uses it without knowing what's RSS) compared to the most of the RSS readers available.

My feeling is that this problem about content and updates boils down to a mix of a few things: - following local and international news - following writers that produce high-quality industry-specific content - how do I get that conveniently in one place? - how should I not lose sanity and hours of time doing that?

And you are right about the amount of the content. It extremely magnifies the mess.

Also, let's not forget the whole hell with ad-incentives that make publishers produce lots of low-quality content (with ad-bloat) just to get a few extra page views (impressions). I would even argue that "free content" and ad-incentives is what ruined the regular news, and it is what drives most of the stupid viral content on FB.

Anyway, give Feedpresso a go - maybe it will stick. PM me for a discount at tadas@feedpresso.com .

>And that’s without mentioning the high technical barrier of RSS that filters ordinary users away. For many popular content providers, there’s no full text output, even no conspicuous feed address. Shall I suggest my mom switching to RSS and subscribing to her favorite WeChat official accounts by setting up an Linux server running web crawler? I haven’t be nerdy enough to do that.

Well it's a protocol. Just as we have better e-mail clients than we used to, we can have better ways of dealing with feeds. Part of the push to re-establish RSS is the hope of more services exposing more and better RSS feeds to be consumed.

> RSS doesn’t allow publishers to track user behavior.

This is a feature, not a bug.

> Analytics increases revenues from advertising, and that means it is critical for companies to have those trackers in place if they want a chance to make it in the competitive media environment.

If you can't survive without tracking my behavior, then I guess you will die. Given the quality of writing I can expect from this "competitive media environment", it won't be a great loss.

> RSS also offers very few opportunities for branding content effectively.

This is a feature, not a bug.

> They need to actively guide users to find where the best content is...

Let me stop you here. An RSS directory is nothing challenging. You can make one by hosting an old timey "list of cool sites" .html on your own website. Brent Simmons included one when he developed and maintained NetNewsWire before selling to Black Pixel. Modern day Podcast clients often include a directory or access to a 3rd party directory. Anybody can create a directory, stuff it with all the criteria they need to sort by tags or algorithmically push users to the highest bidder and ship it in an RSS client.

RSS is a good technology. In terms familiar to a newspaper or press corporation, it is a wire service, except one that goes from newspaper to reader rather than from the Associated Press (or whoever) to newspapers to readers. It does one thing, and it does it well, and doesn't support anything less than it needs to do it.

RSS clients range the gamut from inboxes (NetNewsWire) to news rivers (River5) to machine-curated digital newspapers (Apple News), each of them solid form factors and useful for different types of feeds, and the only reason that variance of form factors is even possible is right there in the name: Really Simple Syndication.

Dave Winer was right to freeze the spec, it's not perfect, but it is good enough. Letting newer iterations filter through would lead us to a situation like with the web, where the www went from a really great networked document browser to an application container. That's why when I visit a site like say, techcrunch.com in a browser with scripting disabled, almost nothing remains of the actual website, although surprisingly the entire article was fully readable, and perhaps more so than if I had enabled JavaScript to let all that Branding™ shine through.

Let me be clear, the only parts of RSS that died are the parts that Google and a few social corporations within 50 miles of each other owned because they all had a stake in getting you into their own walled gardens and keeping you there. The Open Web is great, open standards are great, until you need to convert eyeballs into dollars and the exchange rate isn't looking good because you're too open and didn't introduce enough artificial scarcity into your business model.

RSS never died, by and large the feeds that you subscribed to a decade ago in Google Reader are still alive and kicking, ever present and always underappreciated even at the height of Google Reader's popularity before Google decided to rebrand it to death.

>> RSS also offers very few opportunities for branding content effectively.

> This is a feature, not a bug.

I know where you're coming from, but .. I'm one of the rare people who, for a while, read a significant number of blogs without RSS because I actually liked having the different distinctive visual styles to remind me who I was reading. It's a pity we can't have a little bit of styling without going bananas.

You know, I think it is how I look at it.

More often than not, when I read something, I care about who the other is, and secondary to that, I care about where it is hosted. For more than ten years I've used NetNewsWire, and now I also use Apple News and Overcast. NetNewsWire will show me the author name just fine so long as the feed includes it, and given the left to right style of the client, I can tell at a glance where I am. For most feeds though, it isn't really a problem as I have found that the NetNewsWire-style really only works for feeds that post relatively infrequently, not more than a few times a day if that, and even that would be overwhelming coming from one source if every source I had posted a few times a day to keep up the appearances of their Personal Brand™.

I think an optional CSS or rather a subset of CSS component would not be a bad thing. Just enough to style some text and formatting but not enough to screw with the layout too much. The client could completely dismiss the attached CSS and in my case I would almost certainly end up turning off the custom CSS, but I can appreciate good web design and will visit a site if I happen to really like their design. That said, I also fear that even that concession would open the dam to a lot more concessions than I would like, so I can live with the status quo.

A good feed reader is going to have a good reading experience already, and I care a lot more about having a good reading experience than I do about the opinion of a web designer and their corporate overlords. RSS, reader mode in Firefox and occasionally lynx -dump or when I can find them, print pages, are how I can even use the web to read anything on it anymore.

So HTTP+HTML5 is a mess, I would rather not see HTTP+RSS (or Atom or JSON Feed or whatever) turn into a similar mess so that websites can rebrand their feeds to death in the same way they rebranded their websites to death.

The only reason I read articles on my various RSS feeds at their original source is when the article has some sort of meaningful multimedia component to it. By meaningful I mean something that enhances the content in some way that's valuable to me, and not be an auto-play video that was accurately transcribed in text.

Most RSS and read-it-later applications do a really poor job of playing embedded videos never mind displaying interactive infographics or other JavaScript applications, so going to the source is really the only alternative at the moment.

I hope apps like Pocket would get better at this. Pocket already plays Youtube videos just fine, it's the embedded stuff that doesn't work.

I am totally with you on this one. On one hand, I quite like having a uniform experience where text is consistently readable, etc. On the other, I miss the sense of 'place' and identity you get when viewing an article via RSS. I definitely think a compromise would be nice, but tricky. It might be possible to fix on a range of acceptable font styles, and choose the one that best fits each site. Add on a site's logo and colour scheme, and you might be able to come up with a decent approach.

Every RSS reader I've used had a "click here to go to the original article" button. Does that not do what you want?

A bit more obscure for some, but hugely useful to others: if you're a newsreader (Usenet) kind of person, there's Gwene, by the same folks who did Gmane. While Gmane took mailing lists and made them available as news articles, gwene takes RSS feeds and makes them available as news articles. You need a newsreader (Thunderbird will do, or emacs/gnus, knode, pan, slrn, alpine etc.). Start here: http://gwene.org or just point your newsreader at news.gwene.org. There are millions of RSS feeds, each submitted by someone. (Or you can submit your own). It's managed by Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen, the guy who wrote gnus. I find it hugely useful.

> RSS died. Whether you blame Feedburner, or Google Reader, or Digg Reader last month, or any number of other product failures over the years, the humble protocol has managed to keep on trudging along despite all evidence that it is dead, dead, dead.

What a stupid thing to say... All this indicates is that RSS users didn't like those apps. I use elfeed, which has upwards of 500 stars on Github, and it's an Emacs feed reader. Many other feedreaders exist that you can run on your computer. Furthermore, Feedly and NewsBlur, along with other services, seem to be quite lively. My rather unknown blog gets some requests referred from the Flipboard app regularly.

But a fact is that lots of incompetent site makers do not add RSS feeds to the websites they build. My uni's RSS feeds are going offline one by one as they redesign the web pages, and I have to maintain a scraper script to follow the updates. Many institutions' feeds are badly curated, e.g. a museum I follow, I figured out today that I wasn't getting any news because their RSS feed had a <!doctype html> and some conditional comments before the actual feed. Some feeds include javascript and XML readers fail on them. And then there's the Wix or Squarespace or whatnot websites, and they are a total failure (especially because they can't do this RSS thing whereas even Tumblr does it easily).

I really believe we should somehow certificate programmers and some certain specialisations. That means ensuring that a "web developer" does know about the base specifications on which the web is built, and the most common best practices. If a web dev fails at making an RSS feed, that's a big problem.

Anecdata- When Google Reader was killed off I stopped using RSS feeds entirely with the exception of podcasts

Since the recent post saying we should to back to using RSS I've given NewsBlur a go (I'd tried Feedly when GReader died, didn't like the way it scrolls). Honestly though I looked at a few articles on the day I signed up but I've not checked back once yet. I'm like the person that pays for the gym then never goes when it comes to RSS now apparently.

I don't think I've ever had a problem with a site not having RSS feeds though, any site with regular articles that I want to follow has had one

I have made checking my RSS my equivalent of reading a newspaper in the morning. And it's really easy for me: Emacs is always open anyways, so I type M-x elfeed RET G, and I have a list of updates. I have configured Elfeed such that it has some stored searches [1] which I navigate using j and k, and such that it scores articles in a crude but useful way [2]. So it takes me about 5-10 minutes to process the entire thing, make note of the links to read later, and check the important, immediate stuff. And once I transformed it to a rather joyful thing to do from a chore, it was incredibly easy and automatical to make it into a habit.

[1] https://github.com/cadadr/configuration/blob/master/emacs.d/...

[2] https://github.com/cadadr/configuration/blob/master/emacs.d/...

But a fact is that lots of incompetent site makers do not add RSS feeds to the websites they build. ... Some feeds include javascript and XML readers fail on them. And then there's the Wix or Squarespace or whatnot websites, and they are a total failure (especially because they can't do this RSS thing whereas even Tumblr does it easily). ... I really believe we should somehow certificate programmers and some certain specialisations. That means ensuring that a "web developer" does know about the base specifications on which the web is built, and the most common best practices. If a web dev fails at making an RSS feed, that's a big problem.

I bet most of those older sites ended up getting RSS feeds by default as part of whatever Content Management System they had. And since it wasn't a feature actually requested at the time of deployment, the users of the CMS didn't miss it during a redesign. And since no one has been asking for it, and well-known tools like Google Reader are defunct, services like SquareSpace and Wix don't have it, and their customers are not web-savvy, and so aren't asking for it.

Hey, I wish just as much that more people were more competent at whatever it is they're doing, but saying that leaving out edge features that weren't requested is somehow the sign of a bad programmer or a bad engineer is plain wrong. Good engineers work to solve the problem posed, not their own fantasy work; they may try to convince that something is needed or a nice to have, or may refuse to work on a job they don't think is taking the right things into account. In the case of the former, stats most likely indicate that more traffic comes from AMP or twitter than it does from RSS feeds. And in the case of the latter it just means the customer gets someone else to do it.

RSS wasn't a specification on which the web was built. It's a useful addition, but the fact that the WWW existed before it, and continues to exist after RSS's heyday, means it's not considered critical.

I think you are right about the CMS. That's what's happening in my uni for example. I did send an email about the feeds, no response. Thing is, it's so easy to add one, there's no justification to screwing RSS users, even if it was only me. WRT Squarespace and Wix, well, you can't really read those w/o JS anyways, so that's a nice signal for me.

RSS is as much of an edge feature as the silly animations and crappy one page app reditions of what essentially is a glorified blog is an edge feature. But the latter gets you paid more. On the flip side, e.g. at my uni which switched from wordpress sites to a home-grown CMS, departments have a hard time publishing updates now, and people are switching to Facebook or Whatsapp groups instead. I'm lucky that my department chose to use a google group instead, so that I don't have to convince someone to forward FB updates to me.

Just like RSS, JS was nothing else than a useful addition, and WWW existed long before it and its heyday. The current culture of web development is directly user-hostile in many ways, and builds its confidence upon the perceived approval of users, whereas the reality is that that users' approval is just people putting up with what they have at hand with the varying degrees of knowledge they have. I can't keep mailing every website maintainer and ask for a proper website, I just make do. Luckily I can write a script and put it on cron to fetch most important updates for me, but lots of others don't have anything else than word of mouth or facebook, which is just the digital version of the former. The rapport between the web dev and the user is that of submissive bondage, not really a feedback loop and joy.

I’m a tradesman with a passion for tools of all sorts but especially the ones I personally find useful.

As a non-developer, as an observer, if people want to call themselves “software engineers”, and I think it’s a fair title: you are designing and building systems people rely on, then you need to take the first steps toward self-regulation before it’s imposed upon you.

Yes, if you want to call yourself an engineer then you ought be able to prove under examination that you understand first principles. What those first principles are ought be determined by the industry itself in collaboration with a peak-body for oversight.

What we have not is practically the Wild Wild West that is actively doing harm in some areas.

Thanks to Wordpress publishing an RSS feed endpoint by default (/feed) and Feedly's aptitude at finding feeds, RSS is not dead, or undead, or anything of the sort and I have been using it on a daily basis for over a decade now.

Happy to hear this, thank you for using Feedly! Petr from Feedly

Pretty funny to see an article like this! For a course that I followed I needed to create a paper about the Internet. I chose the topic of RSS and what has let to its so called "death". What I found is that people used RSS but where not aware of it. Then Facebook became big and that became a hugh source of news for many. Now with the exodus happening at Facebook it makes sense that RSS is becoming popular again. Still, this is only the case for tech-savy users and I don't expect that movement to progress into the mainstream.

>What I found is that people used RSS but where not aware of it.

Yep, I had no idea I was using it until I started a website years ago and saw RSS was everywhere.

> It’s wonderfully idealistic, but the reality of RSS is that it lacks the features required by nearly every actor in the modern content ecosystem, and I would strongly suspect that its return is not forthcoming.

Maybe every actor thinks RSS is a problem, but I as a consumer of content love it for all the reasons they find it problematic.

It seems like the author is conflating what's bad for their industry and their marketing dept. and what's bad for the consumer. Consumers don't want intrusive advertising, we don't want analytics, we don't want social interaction. We want content. Full stop.

There's a healthy and lively debate to be had about what needs to happen to allow news to work for both the people who make it and those who consume it, but currently, every discussion along those lines that I read like this are always written solely from the point of the publisher. No one is asking the important questions, like:

1) Did anyone ask the consumer why the "pivot to video" strategy failed? I can tell you in one sentence: No one on the consumer end wanted it.

2) Were consumers ever asked if we wanted our data shared with all manner of companies and possible bad actors? We answered anyway by ramping up adblock usage and noscript usage.

All of these articles read so impressively tone-deaf to the wants and desires of the people they allege to be serving, and then they wonder in thinkpieces why news as an industry is dying.

RSS (currently via Feedly) is how I use Internet. And some of the drawbacks mentioned in this articles are exactly why I use it.

Happy to hear this! Thank you :) Petr from Feedly

We're currently working on an Open Source and good looking RSS + podcast app that has personalization built in. If that sounds interesting to you be sure sign up here to be notified when the beta is released: https://getstream.io/winds/

Does anyone have a good RSS feed reader for Firefox? I don't need to be able to read the actual feed in the reader, I just want a list that'll notify me when a blog I've subscribed to has a new post.

"Feeder"[1] looks like exactly what I want, but the requested permissions list is insane. Are there any that don't request to "Access [my] data on all websites"? I've tried a bunch and they all seem to - I guess so they can detect RSS links in web pages?

I know Firefox has the built-in Live Bookmarks thing, but it doesn't give a notification when there's a new post to read.

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/feeder

There were a couple that used firefox's native live-bookmarks system to register new feeds but I think that was killed off along with the old extension system.

Now they can't handle RSS feeds natively so they need to access webpages to be able to register RSS links. Guess it shows how sacrificing usability for security doesn't necessarily lead to more security.

I'm currently using Brief, and have been using it for quite some time. Still haven't found an alternative I liked. And I guess with the live-bookmarks dead it's harder than ever to switch. I might give Feeder a try.

That's the 2nd reference to some trouble with Firefox and RSS or live-bookmarks. I use both a reader extension (Feedbro) and the native live-bookmarks, in Nightly (60.0b10-32bits) and haven't noticed anything. Anyone can clarify?

Feedbro is really good: https://nodetics.com/feedbro/

Not affiliated, just a user.

Rss files live on the websites' servers just like the HTML files do. All feed readers will need access to data on all websites (it's not your data, it's the websites' data).


Does 'RSS' also mean Atom feeds? The terms seem to be used interchangeably. I had thought Atom was supposed to be a better alternative to RSS but it doesn't seem to have landed. Is it necessary to always offer both? Most sites seem to.

Many sites offer both because common libraries and tools support both so it's easy. I don't think I've seen a reader that only supports one of the formats. IIRC from way back when, atom has a few more features but also some problems, but in the end, it doesn't really matter.

Usually RSS stands for "feed", so both RSS and Atom. I personally prefer RSS format for the feeds I make because Atom feels like premature optimisation, and I do not really comprehend UUIDs, and do not understand why I have to bother with them given a URL is a unique identifier anyways (i.e. https://example.com/a/b/c points to one thing and one thing only at any given time).

My conclusion (quite a while ago now!) was to use Atom as it is a more consistent and reliable format, but to call it RSS in any user interface as that is what users know it as.

I'm using RSS with a browser extension, which will check the feeds. Then I'd read the content on the site. Since it's a handfull of blogs and webcomics, I've got no problems with curation or finding the content I want to read.

Since google reader died, I've been self-hosting a TTRSS instance. I agree with the author that newspapers often have a waterfall of articles that's impossible to read.

One of the solutions I saw on a local traffic alert site was that you could create a personalized feed URL which would only send you a notification when e.g. here is an accident on that specific road.

This might be useful to solve the prioritization problem if you could create a custom feed based on your interests. Secondly this also provides the newspaper with some sort of analytics to incorporate "relevant ads" in the feed (I know I'm playing the devil's advocate here)

At https://feeder.co onboarding is one of our largest hurdles to solve. For a lot of reasons we're lucky to get a lot of users who are completely new to RSS. This means we have a huge job in educating what RSS and what it's not. We've seen that a lot of large sites have stopped advertising their RSS feeds on their homepages, making it harder to detect via the standard means.

Also, we've never stopped growing and are approaching profitability on one full time employee so don't believe the RSS-is-dead hype.

I used to use the feedafever agrigator (until upgrading my servers PHP version stopped it working) I could give it a website url and it would attempt to identify the feed from it; probably first by looking for relevant meta tags and then resulting in checking obvious url paths.

> solving RSS as business model. There needs to be some sort of a commerce layer around feeds

> I would gladly pay money for an Amazon Prime-like subscription where I can get unlimited text-only feeds from a bunch of a major news sources at a reasonable price. It would also allow me to get my privacy back to boot.

Facebook had a scandal over selling private data, so move to RSS for the privacy! RSS doesn't allow tracking (from Amazon), let's turn it into HTML.

> solving RSS as business model. There needs to be some sort of a commerce layer around feeds

RSS is not a business model. Selling things people actually want is a business model.

If you can't persuade someone to pay for your content (perhaps via willingly watching adverts), then it's not economically viable content. If you care enough to continue publishing it, great, but it's out of your own pocket.

> If you can't persuade someone to pay for your content (perhaps via willingly watching adverts), then it's not economically viable content.

"useless content". FTFY.

No, there's a difference between “economically viable” and “useful”. A labour of love may be very valuable to its author and its audience; it's just not a way to make money.

Certainly. What I meant was the content that was meant to make money but not inherently economically viable, i.e. all that clickbait ad-ridden stuff out there.

Ah, yeah. That is useless, by its own measure. Good riddance.

I used to use the self install feedafever app which had a somewhat clever algorithm that would scrape all my subscribed feeds and provide me with a breakdown of whats hot over the past 30 days while also giving me the ability to view a chronological feed.

Unfortunately it became unmaintained and is now abandoned by its author. It's been on my todo list for a while to write similar so I can have the same experience again.

I am also still using RSS - Preferably consumed via well-made, native apps on macOS and iOS. Since Google Reader went down, I am using the self-hosted Coldsweat: https://github.com/passiomatic/coldsweat. It provides a web based aggregator but also can be used to sync native clients.

Dead & undead are not really interesting categories.

Who is using RSS? How are they using it? What depends on or is enabled by RSS? What are the feedback loops, and what are the trends?

There is difference between podcasts, news sites publishing a headline-only, twitter-like feed and a blog publishing full text essays. The protocol itself is a protocol. The interaction between consumer, publisher and protocol is what's interesting. That's a very wide field of possibilities.

Fwiw, in the context of a FB alternative, id be looking out for trends that blur the lines between consumer and publisher. Its certainly not sufficient, but I imagine that any open (or not) alternative to social networks will have this quality.

Does anyone know how well JSON Feed [0] is doing?

[0] https://jsonfeed.org/

Not that this should be any indicator of health, but it's worth pointing out that a few RSS readers (e.g. FeedPress [0], Cast [1], FeedBin [2]) have implemented JSON feed support a few weeks after the initial announcement. What's more, my own basic JSON Feed Viewer [3] is getting multiple hits every day.

[0] https://feed.press/blog/2017/05/31/feedpress-adds-automatic-...

[1] https://blog.tryca.st/cast-update-experimental-json-feed-sup...

[2] https://feedbin.com/blog/2017/05/22/feedbin-supports-json-fe...

[3] http://json-feed-viewer.herokuapp.com/

IMHO, the "problem" with RSS has never been the data format—it's the distribution model (which many of us actually prefer).

"How exactly do you find good RSS feeds?" the article asks.

Three steps:

1. Make sure your browser has the feed detector enabled. It used to be standard, now you need to go into settings and configure it.

2. Surf normally.

3. When you see interesting content and the Feed icon goes active, click on it. Now you've added a feed.

Eventually you should categorize and prune your feeds, but this is a good start.

An alternate route is: view-source, search: "alternate".

Is there a real RSS reader for the desktop anymore, besides Thunderbird?

And one for iOS and Android?

I can only find frontends to online services like Feedly.

I used to use Liferea as a desktop application. Now I use TTRSS which has it's own web interface and Android (and others?) clients.

What do you need beyond e.g. the feedly webapp?

I need something local. Not "cloud".

For desktop and mobile, I created my own (free) Slack workspace and then installed the RSS slack app (https://slack.com/apps/A0F81R7U7-rss) allowing one to subscribe to feeds and benefit from Slack's notifications. Works well for me.

Surely the issues with prioritization or filtering could be solved client side, ie with your RSS reader? Configure your software to hide things with tag X or word Y. You could even have up/down votes to train your RSS reader what is good and what is stuff you never want to see, and it could operate like a local spam filter.

The article talks about analytics, but under GDPR you will have to have a sign-up wall before you can do any analytics. If someone comes on to your site without signing up then you are not allowed to track their IP address or any other identifying information, and without that you can't do much in the way of analytics.

I think analytics often makes things less interesting. I wish more publishers would trust their own judgement and taste and quit trying to optimize for the lowest common denominator.

But if you anonymize the data then it's fine.

You can track an IP address. What you can't do without permission is link an IP address to an identity and then track that.

The one big thing for me with RSS is that it provides me a way to see what exactly is new, when it is new.

I’ve been using Unread app on my iPhone to read all my RSS feeds. I really don’t get all these “RSS is dead” arguments — for me it’s always been such a pleasant experience. People don’t talk about it much, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s “dead”.

I wonder if it would make sense to have a bidirectional mapping between RSS and ActivityPub...

I wish we could go back to the old protocols like RSS, email and SMS. They were open and you could use any client you like and they never had problems with walled gardens. Sometime you have to lose your freedom to really value it like RMS said.

While I mostly agree, I'm not sure going back to SMS is going to help solve a whole lot of problems-of-the-2010s. I'd rather break free from mass surveillance than embrace it, and standardizing new federated encrypted messaging protocols will do this.

Unfortunately, as EFF points out in their recent series about encrypted texting, a one-size-fits-all solution is difficult.

I totally agree. However, SMS is a protocol that just works on ANY mobile phone.

A self-plug, I built a simple RSS reader after Google shut down theirs, which I was using on regular basis. Perhaps someone will find it useful: https://readdu.com

I loved using Fever back in the day for RSS! It was self-hosted and bubbled up stories of the same article from different sources. https://feedafever.com

RSS will never die as long as someone can scrape a website and make their own feed.

If you're a news publisher, sure it looks like RSS is dead, because all you see is its use for news publishing, and it seems unfit for purpose.

I subscribe to hundreds of feeds, and none of them are news publishers. Still works for me.

Sligthly off-topic, but I've been working on a rss-like feed for newsletters: newsletterhunt.com. I may be wrong but I have a feeling that rss moved to newsletters

RSS is crucial for me to get custom keyword alerts from various SEC filings feeds from companies I watch.

InoReader makes a great assistant in this way. I'm not affiliated at all.

I am still using RSS for automatic downloading torrent files.

If you want to try a new RSS reader / news aggregator, you can check out http://aktu.io

Thunderbird is my default rss reader and it works very well.

I don't see anything in RSS itself that would preclude using it for an algorithmically curated feed, any more than HTML does. It's just a protocol.

I guess RSS is dead in the same sense that perl is dead.

I really like http://goodnews.click/ as a news reader

I never stopped using RSS but Firefox has made it a bit more difficult to find out if a site offers RSS...

I personally still have the "Subscribe" icon (Firefox 59). I had to move it from "Customize" to my toolbar but it is definitely there.

Thanks for the tip, I just added it back.

it used to be in plain view all the time (maybe 10 versions ago, I don't remember exactly)

Really? Haven't noticed, can you elaborate?

If a website offered RSS, it used to be in plain view in the address bar, like this: http://screenshots.oldapps.com/3/large_87_Firefox%

Tha's good, but an extension is just not the same... it hides the feature from most people.


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