Not once have I used any of the RSS features of a browser. I really don't see the point. I guess google doesn't either.
It also cites the lack of a reader in Chrome as a sign of RSS' impending doom, while ignoring the fact Google also run a (really good) RSS service for free called Google Reader, which is much more intuitively named than RSS and whose name is easier to understand than the RSS icon.
By the article's logic, one could also predict the imminent death of word processing, IM, (both of which Google also freely offer) and 99% of other programs, all due to the fact they don't have buttons on Firefox's already over-cluttered toolbar.
Actually, just about everything he mentions could be done using a Chrome extension (modifying the new tab page, for example).
It would be nice if Mobile Safari had a button to add feeds to my Google Reader account, but I doubt that will ever happen, unless Apple chooses to implement a similar solution in MobileMe. I would settle for a bookmarklet, though (like Instapaper offers).
In any case, as long as all popular blogging services and CMSes have syndication turned on by default, I don't think we're in any danger of RSS dying off.
edit: it will, unfortunately, take you to Reader if it finds a feed, to give you the option of subscribing. So it's not quite Instapaper-like. But, better than nothing :) I get a lot of use out of it.
The same way that some browsers do it. There is a meta-tag in the page, which describes which feed formats are available, and where to find them.
For one thing, it shows you the whole history of the feed -- even when the XML itself contains just the few most recent items.
And then the author complains that it's hard to use and people aren't taking advantage of it. Jerk.
In fact, I'd bet that part of the reason many people don't use the address bar feed button is because the practice of having links to feeds is so common, and anything on the page is automatically more obvious than something out in the browser chrome.
And a browser's RSS features are indeed too limited - third-party web- and mobile apps are much more sophisticated when it comes to RSS.
What I'm more worried about is the trend to only show an excerpt or introduction of an increasing number of articles. Given the fact that most of those sites rely on ads, it's fair to do that though.
And even for technical users like me, it isn't solving the main problem I have which is discovering new and interesting content. Sure, once I've found some new source of content it's nice to put its RSS feed into a reader. But really, bookmarking is pretty good too. Yes there are clear benefits to RSS over naked bookmarks, but the discoverability problem is still paramount.
Anyway this is kind of inconsequential to the point of whether native RSS functionality should be included in a browser. Mozilla is right to kill this "feature." RSS is an application-level protocol on top of HTTP, itself an application-level protocol. Browsers are built to perform HTTP requests. In my opinion they shouldn't do much else. A feature that displays and helps you manage RSS content falls into the category of bloat.
This is why most linkblogs are now twitter feeds. Even Andy Baio’s is still a subset of what he twitters.
My problem in RSS feeds is importance, some sort of metric of popularity would be good. A lot of times I’ll remove a feed for curatorial purposes to have that site drop some major project that goes viral, and I then find out several weeks later.
The entire concept of RSS is somewhat flawed for what happens in the real world. It would be a lot better to create some XML encapsulation of what the front page of the NYT does in terms of curatorial importance.
RSS would be a critical tool for anyone trying to solve that problem.
A lot of the complaints here are that RSS isn't what RSS isn't. OK, that's great, but those are more "entrepreneurial opportunities" than problems with RSS. Toss out RSS (and I assume by extension Atom and all similar friends) and those opportunities recede, they recede a lot, they don't get better. It is what it is and it has always been designed from day one to be a foundational infrastructure on top of which to build more things, not the Final Answer To All Problems.
The NYT front page, while changing day-to-day still has a layout that embodies importance. There needs to be some sort of semantic interpretation of how important something is other than h1’s. How do we replicate the 144pt super-important headings while removing presentation from content?
The web was built for rationalist minds and papers, and the separation of html elements furthers this goal, yet hampers any sort of human-ness of communication.
RSS is great for a blog, but bad for newspapers. Check out NYT’s RSS feed. Every article ticks in at an equal level of importance and requires the viewer’s mental acuity to discern what’s #1. Not so with their web-front or printed sheet.
Syndication, while essential, needs to be extended.
If the curator is strictly online popularity, news sites invariably turn into people magazine. You need some high-and-mighty news nerd to determine what's truly important. Sure, the curator's occasionally wrong or late, but it's a lot better than pointless water-cooler talk.
"Subscription" is the most common term used, probably because it is a reference to the underlying technology (publish/subscribe) and to a vaguely similar concept in userland (subscribing to a publication.) But subscription is not a good metaphor. Subscriptions do not lessen your commitment; they increase it. Having a bunch of magazine subscriptions is a burden! They fill up your mailbox and clutter up your apartment. A "subscribe" button scares people away because it evokes a much more consequential decision; the user wonders if it is worthwhile to commit to this burden. And of course subscription is not the only way to use RSS.
What web sites and browsers need to do is simply SAY in their UI what the RSS features do, without saying "RSS" and without trying to train users to recognize the RSS symbol.
I am not a UI designer, but I think the word we're looking for is "updates." Buttons should say:
"Show me recent updates to this site"
"Show me future updates to this topic"
"I want to see future updates to this site"
The button to show your RSS feeds should say "Updates" and should have a tooltip saying "Updates to your web sites."
To help people discover this functionality, I think it would be great for browsers to check for RSS feeds on the sites a user goes to frequently and work that into the UI somehow. When you open Chrome and see thumbnails of your favorite sites, each thumbnail might have a button saying, "Recent updates...."
And there's one simple feature that people would easily figure out and would actually use. When you're on a site that has an RSS feed, there could be a little pop-over button in a corner (like the button added by Feedly's Firefox plugin) that you can click to see a list of recent updates to a site. It's a simple feature, some people would figure it out for themselves, and anyone could grasp how it worked after seeing it used once or twice. It would put pressure on websites to provide good RSS feeds, because they would know many users were checking them. Here's a tip: put the words "Recent updates" on the button.
tl;dr Don't say RSS, don't use a symbol, don't say "subscribe" or "subscription," just use the word "updates" and say what you mean.
I have no expectation for it to solve that. It serves its purpose well. I'm thankful for widespread RSS and love using it.
And on the other side, anyone who does use RSS, and anyone in the future who learns to use it, won't be put off using it by the loss of that button.
The worse statement in this article (other than the french man smoking) is:
Mozilla’s mistake here is to associate low usage with user dis-interest.
However you cannot argue that it has to be kept because every regular user wants this feature - statistics don't lie, clearly the majority of users don't care.
In 1985, 1990, 1995, or 2000 you would not have extrapolated the current percentage of online users playing social games into the future, because it was obvious the experience was going to get better. It was easy to imagine better graphics, sound, responsiveness, and social interaction, and everyone assumed the better experience would attract a broader range of users.
With RSS it's not so easy to imagine how the user experience will improve. We're suffering a failure of imagination. We have the use case: Checking for recent updates on a web site is something people do all the time. They even do it on web sites they're visiting for the first time, and it can be really frustrating depending on the organization of the web site. We have the technology to serve this use case: RSS.
So the users want the information and the browser can get it. We can't yet imagine an effective way to present the information to the users, but proof by failure of imagination is no proof at all. Personally, I think it's likely that someone will find a graceful way to present RSS information to the user, and RSS will disappear from our sight and from our vocabularies into a heretofore-unenvisaged UI element.
anyone who does use RSS, and anyone in the future who learns to use it, won't be put off using it by the loss of that button
I think you miss the author's main point which is that the usage of the button is low not because users don't want that feature but because the UI is crappy all around. Removing the button only makes the UI worse.
What about those who use RSS and use that button (like myself)? Won't they be "put off" by the loss of the button?
1.) Why is it ok to remove the button - because hardly anybody uses it.
2.) Why does Firefox removing the button not meant that "RSS is dying" - because people who currently use RSS will keep doing so, just without using the button.
There are very few individual users of it but there are literally millions of web sites that use it. Almost everyone on the Internet uses a portal site of some kind and the only way to be included on one of those sites is RSS/Atom feeds.
So as long as people want to use RSS for a personal reader it will be there to do it. And there will always be RSS readers because every programming environment I can think of has a pre-built library for feed reading meaning a programmer could whip a reader up in under an hour.
As far as the button disappearing from browsers that just makes UI sense. Chrome Browser taught the rest of the industry that most people hate clutter in their browser. So buttons that 93% of the users don't use are being taken out. But they can be added back with a simple browser extension/plug-in/whatever. So even here the people who want to use an RSS reader aren't losing anything
(and even without an extension/plug-in/whatever any user savvy enough to be using a reader will know how to cut and paste a url)
In some respects, a web-app RSS reader (like Bloglines or Google Reader) is better. You can access your feeds from any computer, the read/unread status is kept synchronized between PCs, and the centralized web-app arrangement makes more efficient use of network resources. Better to have Google Reader poll a site every 30 minutes than to have 10,000 Firefox installs each polling it every few hours.
The only browsers I know of that ever had good in-browser RSS readers were Opera and Seamonkey. But even in those cases, RSS was included as part of the mail client, not shoehorned into the browsing paradigm.
I once wrote a Python script that would parse RSS feeds and write emails in a maildir (or whatever is supported by Python); one was then able to read news from an MUA which was comfortable (Mutt by then). I lost that script when I did a 'dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda' before quitting my last job and realizing 2 minutes later that I forgot to backup many useful scripts I wrote over the course of my year and half in that NGO.
Being a smoking Frenchman, I'm tempted to be gratuitously insulting to the author but there's one interesting problem that could come from RSS' disappearance from browsers: the lack of visibility may very well "destroy" the format in the long term. Also, as the web is increasingly publicized, the incentive to remove a format that generates traffic but may hardly generate revenue might be high.
That does seem pretty inconvenient. Many of the posts at bugzilla argue that the most important feature of the button is the fact that it indicates, in a standard way, that feeds were detected. And I agree.
On the other hand, since it's Firefox, there will probably be several feed-finder extensions available before 4.0 is final.
Yep. I read all my RSS feeds in my mail client, claws mail. The feeds display on screen just like a mailing list. Plus you get the benefit that most email clients have such as deep searches, filtering, etc.
RSS is an amazing tool, but maybe we just haven't found the right UI for it yet. Exposing it in the browser doesn't work very well and treating RSS as an Inbox (like Google Reader) where every item needs to be marked as read is too overwhelming. Personally, I think a social approach to RSS that puts content and personal preferences at the fore-front would solve a lot of this.
Everything wrong with RSS in a nutshell: this is a problem real people don't have.
But I want to dig a little at this. I think the fact that most people only have access to CNN or Time or Fox News or Cosmopolitan or Maxim or whatever... that there is not an easy way for people to get news aggregated from 100's of their peers and thought leaders in their affinity groups.... I think that IS a problem people have. It may not be a problem they are aware of, but I think the social cost of consolidated media is very high.
I think RSS, and technologies like it (Twitter, Facebook) are an important part of the solution to that problem. RSS is obviously not very user friendly, and I'm not sure if it will have a place at the table 10 years from now.
But the problem it solves (a standard interchange format for syndication) is absolutely real, and it's not going away.
I know most people don't like to visit more than five sites on a regular basis, but the same could be said for printing bingo cards or reading books. I don't think that makes a significant portion of outliers "not real."
Also, anecdotally from being the de facto "computer support guy," I've found that more people don't know about RSS but would find it useful than those who know about RSS and can't imagine a use for it.
I bet if someone made a sports oriented RSS reader a whole lot of people would use it. Some people like going to <= 10 sites to see what's new but people who follow more than 10 sites would like the idea of RSS.
Difficulty reading "100 sites several times a day" isn't a technology problem; it's a focus problem.
I don't know, do you think that RSS readers dying will mean websites will stop producing RSS feeds? The output seems to be built in to many systems these days already.
This isn't 1970 anymore where I want to read "What's New" from a small list of new sources. I prefer to go each day to a list of curated aggregators like HN or what the people I follow on Twitter or saying. This is vastly superior to RSS and this is why at least one technical user no longer uses it.
But they built and are actively maintaining Google reader. I don't think Google dislikes RSS, rather they are hesitant to build a browser feature for something that should really be a separate application.
RSS - you have high volume and high breadth, but it takes a long time to look through it and find the things that are interesting.
Aggregators - the "most interesting" posts are right there on the front page, but it has a very narrow focus and is filtered or skewed by the community.
I think what we're really looking for is the most interesting content that is customized for us, but it's a big problem to tackle. Newsblur (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1869136) was an interesting idea; not sure where that's gone since November's post.
They often get their news from blogs, news websites, word of mouth, and web searches. RSS is very useful for keeping up with some of these sources.
Sometimes aggregators do get their news from other aggregators, but at some point that incestuous chain has to be broken and someone has to read the original news somewhere and pass it on to an aggregator.
Finally, most aggregators themselves (including HN), publish their news via RSS (or Atom). I know that's how I read HN headlines, and virtually every other news source I regularly read.
HN contributions don't just materialize - they're often posted by people who scan large amounts of material. Via RSS, usually.
Then again, those users are certainly savvy enough to use RSS without a browser button.
Vastly superior for looking well educated to others, less superior for actually understanding how the world works.
The worst part is that when you read HN you actually feel like you're learning, because you are. The problem is that you're not learning nearly as fast as you would be if you were reading books. It's the same reason why 2-5 year olds who watch TV are measurably learning, but at the same time end up dumber than kids who aren't watching TV because they're learning at a slower pace. The fact is that even reading a book about something as seemingly mundane as the history of American homeopathy will teach you more about life, the universe, and everything than six months of reading HN. (E.g. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/295/13/1590.extract )
For example, if I sourced my tech news solely from HN, I might imagine that large corporations consist solely of oblivious, slow-moving dinosaurs incapable of writing decent software. But if I had http://cacm.acm.org/ showing up in my RSS reader, I'd be exposed to a somewhat competing view.
To me, the value of RSS is the ability to subscribe to a few sites I wouldn't normally bother visiting. It's not hard to remember to check HN. Remembering to swing by corporate IT and Microsoft-focused publications is a bit tougher. RSS can help with that.
You just prefer socially aggregated feeds is all. I actually like a mix of both. Setting up intelligent RSS feeds that will come in handy just takes a little upfront work is all. But then you've got an algorithm that you can constantly tweak and refine, which I find very useful, especially as a research tool. Give Yahoo Pipes a whirl and see if it changes your mind. http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
But aggregators can publish RSS streams too. How is following someone on Twitter different from subscribing to his RSS feed?
I would agree that a site like HN isn't very attractive to read via RSS. When the ranking is dynamically determined by readers' interest, you lose something by freezing the list in the form of an RSS stream. But for a curated site like Slashdot, what difference does it make if the link stream comes in the form of RSS or as tweets?
Incidentally, I wouldn't call HN a curated site. Slashdot has editors/curators; HN doesn't.
As a chrome user I'm happy that it does one thing well and that's displaying web pages. Now I'm free to use any online RSS reader I want and be able to access my RSS feeds from anywhere.
Why do you think I’m worried? I don’t want to have to clutter my site with a button to an XML feed that nobody understands. I want the browser auto-discovery to do the right thing and present the right interface to make RSS worthwhile.
Turning the key in a car shouldn’t present you a diagram on how to connect the battery. Browsers shouldn’t sit there dumbfounded when presented a piece of RSS.
Because auto-discovery isn't working on his site either? (At least in Safari)
Wow, 33 votes. They're really ignoring the masses on that one.
Of course all the high-vote bugs are special-interest-advocacy stuff like "bring back MNG support" and "bring back gopher support" and "bring back the RSS button"... So high vote count is actually a reliable indicator that the bug should be wontfixed, more often than not.
They are still the world's most popular browser... and presumably their users are less technical, so presumably it's usage is less than what Mozilla reports, but it remains.
Because of their history. Because users aren't technical. Because IE is bundled with Windows. And look how quickly they've been falling in use. Methinks they won't be the most popular for much longer, which is an incredible mark against their design decisions because of how fast and how far they've fallen from such complete domination.
In which case, what is it we're complaining about? Browsers that have RSS readers are bad and browsers that don't have RSS readers are bad?
The interface to using RSS has always been flawed, that is where the problem is.
Based on what causal chain? At best, it's an incredible stretch of a slippery slope fallacy.
Browsers are unnecessary for RSS or tracking, and it's a very poor match for browsing behaviors anyway.
I agree that browsers are unnecessary for RSS though.
The point is that paranoia (valid or not) is not a reason to keep a technology alive when that technology does not solve the problem, especially when solutions do exist. If you want a solution, use a solution, not a crippled, bundled-in-your-browser partial solution that only works under certain circumstances / assumptions.
The primary purpose of RSS - aggregation of content -- works very well, irrespective of bad UI decisions which have nothing to do with RSS itself. And when you pull a full text RSS feed, you're probably far away from "Like" buttons and the like while reading content.
Thus, by losing RSS, we would lose zero ability to read privately. It's only viewed as being without all the privacy-sniffing bells and whistles because most providers don't do so. RSS can lose all its currently-common privacy attributes while still being RSS. We should be worried about the loss of privacy online, which is rampant, not the loss of RSS (if it does die). And RSS is a particularly bad flagpole to gather around; anyone up in arms about it is much more likely to be up in arms about privacy than the reverse.
The technology that is the RSS reader is not the driver of RSS. The feed is what drives it. NYT is putting up a feed even if is has zero browser support, I'll bet.
Until it's not worth the practically-zero cost of setting up a feed, there will be piles of feeds out there. Publishers will use anything they can to get more eyeballs, and feeds like RSS fit perfectly into that strategy.
I use RSS all the time. That's how I got to this article. And I'm not worried about it one bit.
In person, the right response to the original sentence would be a polite cough, followed by a brief but significant silence, followed by a slight but detectable face-saving change of subject. We can't do those things on the web, but in this case "um... what?" is an artful alternative.
The comment, to me, is a distraction. Not purposeful I'm sure, but it's had that effect. The fact that the community would vote it up to the point where it might be the first comment someone reads when seeing this thread is disappointing.
Perhaps a little reflection is in order, you were originally unhappy that the comment I made might have distracted from, or derailed, any possible discussion. Then, rather than turning the other cheek, you opted to kick off a discussion which has ironically created a genuine distraction.
update: This reply was a little bit cheeky and I subsequently sent stanleydrew an email to apologise.
My intention was not to start a discussion. My intention was to make people think before upvoting, and to make people think before they consider posting a similar comment in the future. Hopefully, despite derailing the larger thread a bit, I achieved that goal.
I'm happy to take this discussion offline though, in order to prevent further derailment. My email is in my profile.
The web is just moving to realtime and ingesting a big long text file and determining deltas sucked. For that matter, XML as a data transport vehicle should end in favor of more compact and type friendly solutions like JSON.
Don't be so alarmist that a crappy tech is being phased out. Now, where's my Tandy 1000.
It'll be interesting to test Kroc's thesis, though: if he's right that RSS will be harmed a lot by Firefox removing the RSS icon, then hits to the RSS stream from Firefox UAs should change trend-line between 3.6.x and 4. I look forward to such a follow-up, it would be interesting data!
I go to a web site and see a little orange button that I can click and it will add this web site flipbook.
Yay, now I can read the web site like a magazine with consistent and readable formatting and not have to remember what that site was I wanted to go back and look at the next time they posted something.
Like webmail displaced most "normal" people's imap/smtp (with all the firewall misery). Google groups/forums displaced NNTP.
I also feel sad, because RSS was free, while twitter and facebook are careless computing.
Bookmarks > Bookmarks Bar > View All RSS Articles
I can't find a "View All RSS Articles" button. By default, I hide the "Bookmarks Bar" toolbar (because I want as much vertical screen real estate as I can get.) The "View All RSS Articles" item does not appear in the "Bookmarks Bar" toolbar when I make this toolbar visible.
I am looking into the NetNewsWire app for Mac.
No RSS feed for Wikipedia portal:Current events?
Hacker News RSS is broken?
I'd be more concerned that RSS is dying because many content providers--from big media to bloggers--seem to prefer to only show me a short excerpt, or even a title in their RSS feeds. I don't want to leave Google Reader to read your articles! When I have to open every single RSS item's link (in a new tab) from Reader, that either discourages me from visiting your site... or discourages me from using RSS, as it adds little to no value, and indeed just introduces frustration.
The other reason I avoid RSS is for sites like HN and Reddit, where the order of links, their scores, and their ages are important. Maybe RSS should be updatable (which may be what PubSubHubbub is designed for?).
I can understand why the benefits of RSS aren't more widely understood by the general public; the technology makes use of an abbreviation (an abbreviation that isn't actually much more comprehensible when its spelt out).
RSS is a service, used by applications to make content portable. It's not a final solution, it's a tool that can be integrated into a number of different applications. It's quite likely that many of the applications it could be used for haven't been created yet.
A slightly ridiculous article.
You might also be interested in trying these alternate HN feeds:
But, it does require some computer savvy to setup and operate. You need programs, you need to sometimes figure out your feed URL's. Good reader has a really weird and lousy interface.
As a computer guy I don't care, but I rarely recommend it to even medium tech savvy friends because I don't see them dealing.
But is this really true? Wouldn't it be possible to build an (authorized) interface to Twitter that would serve search results according to topics/keywords without actually creating an account with Twitter?
Something along the lines of
This searches all posts that contain "node.js", are from reddit, or are from hackernewsbot. You can even get an RSS feed for it, at http://search.twitter.com/search?q=node.js%20OR%20from:reddi...
Like a few others here, I look at RSS in the morning. As it turns out, what I really wanted was a sort of newspaper/magazine format. Flipboard delivers that perfectly.
As far as people actually using their "RSS" buttons to read websites, I've actually never heard of anyone doing that. The author appears to misunderstand the primary rationale of modern RSS.
Anyway, why not simply have an RSS plugin / extension as some have suggested? You can do this in all the browsers.
But then again maybe blekko doesn't have a future....
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://ycombinator.com/news.css">
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://ycombinator.com/favicon.ico">
"Although LINK has no content, it conveys relationship information that may be rendered by user agents in a variety of ways (e.g., a tool-bar with a drop-down menu of links)."
Imagine for example that on the Chrome home page, where sites you visit often appear, Chrome also was following the RSS of these sites in the background, and listing new news items for those sites on the home page, all without you having to do anything.
There is infinite possibility here for browser vendors to make browsing quicker, easier and more intelligent and RSS is a key part of that. The browser vendors are not interested in exploring this avenue and as such everybody is stuck doing the same stupid routine every single day. This is dumb! Our computers should be smarter than this!
That's a hell of a good idea actually. Having a count of items that popped on a website since your last visit would be a really useful information.
I just use that as an example because 10-11 years ago nobody knew what it was, but they knew they didn't need it... until they tried it.
moreover.com has many precompiled rss feeds for various subjects.
i've developed my solution as a firefox addon, and you can download it from here -- http://fixx.yolasite.com/razor
i'd never used rss feeds before (probably wouldn't have invented razor then?), but razor is different and to me is more powerful!
i use razor to check newest stuff from hacker_news using the following saved razor-expression:
http://news.ycombinator.com/newest)))<a href=".+">.</a>%%%>[^<]<%%%[^>].[^<]((([0-9]+.ago---[0-9]+.point---\sby\s---^[0-9]\.$---^\s\(.\)\s$---^[0-9]+[ ]comment.\s$---^\w$---^\s[\|\\s$---^Feature Requests$---^Y Combinator$---^Hacker News$---^(News\s)$
It might look "geeky" and intimidating, but check the above razor link (it has docs too) and you'll see why this solution is promising.
nice feeds hacking!
If you don't get it yet, check back in two years. You'll be able to tell us all about why that doesn't scale and can't work and RSS is a lot better. You may not believe me yet, but I can wait.
it solves the problem of having to build a new scraper tool every time you have some site you want to programatically pick something from.
maybe i didn't clarify its purpose well, or i gave the wrong examples? imagine using it to track malformed tags in web pages of your choice in real-time, this is another way it could be used.