Compare with Facebook or Twitter, where you click a link to the default client and can start using it right away.
Ultimately, you can google "Twitter" or "Facebook" and start using the platform right away. Google "RSS" and you get technical explanations, a Wikipedia page, and competing choices for feed readers.
Email has no default client.
TV has no default client.
The telephone network, after a lengthy battle involving AT&T, has no default client.
SMS has no default client.
Somehow, people find a way to use these things. It took many years from when the first web browser was written in 1990 to get to ubiquity. We got RSS in 1999 and it is in widespread use among web publishers; I can't think of a major news site that does not use it. Where we are lacking is in user uptake. Give it time. Open standards always take longer, but one will eventually get us there.
The point of the OP was not about having a single standardized client, but rather having the functionality baked into product(s) without the user having to seek it out on their own, or even learn what "RSS" means. The feeble attempts from Safari and Firefox are the closest we've come, but ideally this was a push that should have happened at the OS level, both on desktop and mobile.
The original posting referred to "platforms without a default client," whereas you refer to, roughly, "a commonplace convention for some higher level platform to select a default client" (my words).
The original posting further implied it is a problem that there are "competing choices for feed readers," which you did not state. (This was silly, not least because the counterexample of Twitter also has competing choices for feed readers.)
I completely agree that stronger RSS choices and less asking the user, especially at the browser level, would be a great thing. More defaults would be great. But the original post was supporting the idea of a single, global default vendor.
That said, it's a marketing thing. If you can make things click for the everyday joe, all the more power to you!
Good work though.
But TV is something that people already know that they want, so they're more willing to jump through hoops; they'll fiddle with it until it works, or call up the cable company and say "make it play HBO and sports". RSS, on the other hand, is something people won't want until they've used it and integrated it into their lives. This is a microcosm of adoption of the internet itself, which only took off once (a) browsers were part of the OS, and (b) AOL disks were everywhere, combined with social forces turning it into a de facto "default client".
There's no default oven or toaster or blender either. Because you buy the product to perform a function. If you buy a TV, you want to receive TV signals, or play content on a device that plugs into a TV.
If you have a computer, it can do damn near anything so there needs to be defaults for the things it can do, to expres to new users that it can do them. If every computer came with a default feedreader pre-populated with a set of feeds and explained "hey, click the [icon] on your favorite websites, and we'll show you new updates right here, like a customized newspaper" there'd be larger uptake.
People buy toasters not because there is a default one but because they've used one in the past and got used to the idea. We need to focus on getting the idea of possibility of RSS-like functionality across, not on a nitpick like lack of a "default" client.
It would be an interesting twist to see RSS explained as "Twitter for any website."
> The web has no default client.
> Email has no default client.
> TV has no default client.
> SMS has no default client.
However, RSS has no default client. If you see a link that says "contact us via email" and you click it, your mail client responds to the mailto: link. There should absolutely be an rss:// (or whatever) protocol link that browsers can either handle internally or ship to whatever client.
There was a time when this was not true. No computers came with browser. Then the web got really, really popular. Browsers were added after the fact.
Even today, the share of non bundled web browsers matches that of bundled web browsers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_Web_browsers
Bundling is nice. RSS should be bundled! But it's a red herring to say the lack of bundling, or the fact that it's got multiple vendors, is why RSS has not succeeded enough.
I think the deeper problem is that it takes a kind of abstract thinking, that content and presentation are different things and that the content of a website or blog can be a resource as much as a particular presentation of it, that's just not normal for non-technical people. I think most people still think of websites as "places" you "go" to, and the idea of the content/data packaged in a format for easy syndication is a mental leap regardless of the metaphor you use.
Information on a webpage and 'the' webpage are not exactly the same. Rss uses information from the webpage to create a title and a short description in a way that you can view hundreds of titles and descriptions very quickly. When you find a title and or description that interests you a single click delivers the webpage in its authors intended form...
I think you're correct. If somebody said that to me before I had used Rss I might have glossed over as well.
edit: Sorry about the defunct company part.
We also had the additional problem of trying to be the "next generation" of using RSS (application platform, dynamic filters, etc...) before anyone other than tech-inclined people "got" the first generation.
Learned lots of painful lessons from that company. :)
Not arguing against you -- just pointing out -- who is it to blame for making people think of websites as places? I don't think it's the people themselves, it might well be us.
When the web was popularized in the 1990s, "place" was the metaphor that was pushed onto people. It wasn't a natural metaphor nor it was a necessary one. You don't "go to" a TV channel -- you "turn on" a TV channel. For some reason, though, you "go to" a web "site". Why?
I feel like RSS has gotten harder to use lately.
I have no idea why it is not part of the default install though.
While that may be true, I'll bet that almost everyone has a decent client.
For example, IE7-9 all have RSS readers. Yes, they manage and create subscriptions. The RSS icon turns orange and becomes active when there's a feed available on the current page.
I'll bet that the other major browsers do as well or better.
1. They probably created it like one of the many products they did without a profit purpose at the beginning. Even with search, they didn't know where to head before a few years.
2. Right. I was just trying to explain why there could be rumors. They are closing a lot of services that aren't key to their business, though. I can understand that from a financial point of view very well. They may also want to consolidate the brand, and making it easier to grasp for non-geeks. All valuable goals.
3. "Conspiracy theory" is a big word. Think again about it. Companies try to move markets to their products, sometime using offensive methods. Remember Google suspended whole accounts (including Gmail, Gdocs) because users used pseudonyms on Google Plus. They're definitely serious about G+. But I won't search literacy on that topic for you. The world out here is competitive and brutal, that's all.
EDIT - Reformatted blank lines
The bigger problem though comes when the non-techie has written something online that I want to read...
Actually I stopped using RSS years ago. It's a time consumer, you lose the charisma of every different websites and their way of browsing (I don't see myself using reddit or HN's RSS), a lot of website just truncate their articles in their RSS feed...
The only solution I found to get back to normal life was ditching my rss reader. Now I just the read 3-4 blogs frequently and check the others from time to time. I enjoy the design of each blogs. It's part of the atmosphere and of the read.
Having to go to websites to get the same information is so cumbersome, primitive, and time consuming in comparison.
I don't really care about the "charisma" of websites. I'm much more interested in just getting the information they have to offer in the most efficient way possible. I couldn't consume nearly as much information efficiently without something like RSS.
The only way to go back to my normal life was to ditch my RSS readers. Now I'm enjoying a few websites and I realize I really don't need all those informations. Some websites I don't even need to check their new articles "in time".
And I found out I did care about the "charisma" of websites. It was like reading a different news paper, different texture, different layout, different feeling.
I understand both part, but I think very few people need a RSS reader (do we all read 100+ websites everyday? I was and I don't anymore). And I think a lot of RSS reader users would actually enjoy going back to the tranquility of reading directly through a blog's interface. I know it's less practical, you change the UI everytime and if you read a lot you only need the information. But juste give it a try, don't use your RSS reader for like a week, or at least a few days if you really need it. You'll see a difference :)
TL;DR:Internet doesn't have to be all about information.
That's not really a solution, however. Kind of a drag that Twitter pulled RSS links down off of user pages..
I wonder when people will realize handing over the keys this way is a terrible idea. Support those platforms if you want, certainly. But don't make them the only way to interact with you.
RSS was also useful for streaming playlists and status items to thin clients, but they too are increasingly supporting full-on web browsers instead.
So what? It's in your best interest to keep the nerds happy because they are the ones doing the actual work to push technology forward.
And taking it a step further, RSS without full-text is little better than no RSS.
I totally agree. I use Reeder on both my phone and computer, because it's able to take those annoying excerpts, and use readability to turn it into the full text right in the feed reader.
Yahoo! Pipes has helped me with that (it can fetch pages and turn them into RSS feeds), although it requires some knowledge of HTML and possibly regexes.
Does it exist? What I think we might be looking for is a Twitter client that displays the usual timeline, but also can act like an RSS reader: For a subset of your followers, you can display a list of all their Tweets over the last 7 days that included a link, along with a preview of the content at that link. Surf down that display and mark a Tweet "read" and it disappears from that display (though it remains in the usual timeline).
Actually this might scream "Instapaper addon". I'd love to be able to select a subset of my Twitter followers and have their Tweeted URLs beamed directly into Instapaper to be read at my leisure. Come to think of it, I wonder if I could hack that up myself.
Twitter is not a superset of RSS. It does a small part of what I do with RSS, but not all of it, and not in as nice of a way.
The Twitter-Instapaper thing is a good idea, but it's just not the same as RSS.
It's not merely that Twitter is easier to subscribe to, that the feeds are easier to set up and serve (there's almost nothing to do; Twitter's engineers do all the work), that the Twitter link-sharing protocol is intuitively obvious, that Twitter has a legendary brand while nobody knows what RSS is, that Twitter clients show the actual rendered HTML of the linked page (complete with those ads) rather than an often-incomplete text teaser or a bunch of broken formatting.
No, the killer feature of Twitter is the viral loop. Any individual tweet can be trivially forwarded, or trivially broadcast to an entire hashtag. And every tweet or retweet is also a self-contained advertisement for its author and a call to action: It takes only one click to bring up the entire history of its author's Twitter stream, and only one click to subscribe to that author's future Tweets.
I personally don't want to "subscribe" to a blog via Twitter or Facebook. I agree with Felicia that RSS is the way to go, but how long will it last if it's so difficult to set up for the end user?
Indeed, there is not a lot of planning going on when developing brave new platforms. Lack of awareness or understanding of RSS leads people to devise strategies like Twitter lists and custom Twitter clients to keep track of periodically updated hypertext content they are interested in.
About the only thing Twitter-as-RSS does better than plain RSS is consolidation of multiple feeds into one easy-to-poll source which enables easier push-like functionality - essentially a Google Reader.
A better Twitter client won’t help with that: It can’t display information that’s not there.
The last thing I want to do is sift through a bunch of @replys and find myself done with my breakfast but feeling empty.
This is why my website will always have an RSS feed. I also have a Twitter feed for people who want it, but I'd prefer people to use RSS.
My tech blog seems to have about an equal number of RSS followers and Twitter followers. I'm not sure how much overlap there is.
So why not subscribe to the Twitter or FB RSS feed of their content. Or am I missing something.
For major news sources like Gawker, IGN, CNN, what have you, RSS is still there and probably won't be going away.
This scrapes the HN front page every hour and is a lot easier to check:
If you look at your G+ profile page in view source in any browser you will see a Buzz activity atom feed for it..