My impression is that we have the opposite of a "war" here. These RSS features are dying of natural causes. Unless someone can point me to the conference, blog post, or secret meeting where an evangelist convinced Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Mozilla, et cetera to simultaneously kill this feature in tandem, I'll continue to suspect that they're doing so because they're all subject to the same market pressure: There's a lot of new, popular, paying features that need building, from Twitter and Facebook integration, to mobile apps, to mobile-friendly APIs, to responsive and touch-friendly design, and as these things get added to the backlog other things get pushed down. Code is expensive to maintain and if it doesn't carry its weight it gets cut, even if it's vaguely likeable and nifty.
To refute your last point, the article explicitly mentions that that Twitter has functional RSS support, which was deliberately removed from the user interface and metadata, so it's not a matter of development or maintenance cost.
"The demise of RSS"
"The downfall of RSS"
Or if you want to get superdramatic: "The silent acquiescence of RSS to an untimely demise"
It’s not a war. Not even using extremely liberal (and stupid) definitions of war.
Mechanical fish is right, RSS is unattractive to people, that is the problem. People don't hate it, it isn't a war.
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="...">
pointing to a URL that already exists and works just fine doesn't cost anything. If the primary reason had been maintenance cost, they would have removed the feature itself.
The next step, in many cases, is to send out sorrow-filled notices to the feature's users saying, in essence, that you're end-of-lifing the feature as of date X. Though often the bad news is artfully disguised. (e.g. "Look at all the glorious new stuff that we're rolling out to replace that tired old feature that will now be deprecated and slated for removal.")
Only in step three do you just shut it off. You might even shut it off gradually, as when Google shut off their old design for Gmail, a process which is still going on and appears to be taking literally years.
How much time elapses between the three steps depends on the details.
(Please, please refute me: Tell me a good iOS feed-reader that syncs my read status between my iPhone and iPad, but doesn't require me to use Google Reader.)
Google may not technically own RSS, just as they don't technically own Android, but they own Google Reader and Feedburner. Maybe that's not a mousetrap, strictly speaking. But I still feel stuck.
Have you tried Newsblur (http://www.newsblur.com/) - has a great web app and complementary iPhone app. Samuel Clay (the developer) is often on HN too, although his username escapes me right now.
On an individual level, Google Reader used to be like crack for me, I couldn't get away from it. Used it every day. Followed hundereds of websites. Then the tore the social out of it and clunklily put it into G+, which blows (no reader user liked this). Now I almost never use google reader. It's almost like they were trying to push people away from it. But that's just my two cents.
But progress has fizzled to nothing:
"I'm also usually very open to change and what have you, but I despise the new reader. Exactly because I like to be in reader, and see what my friends posted from reader. I don't want it mixed with the rest of my social life, I don't want it mixed with FB like status updates, I just want to see what people are sharing in Reader. It's like I had my own "community" in reader, a small but special subset of people really in the "know". Yeahyeah, that's a circle, I know, but I went to reader to read what they shared, then I read my own, and shared. The 'dialog' was more circular, if that makes any sense. That, and my Reader slants heavily on the 'images' and artsy side of things, it was almost like a micro tumblr that only friends saw, but unlike tumblr, it's not recycled stuff, we are all pulling from different places, I followed a guy from finance, a dude that loved astronomy, and chick in advertising, a guy in tech, a girl into silly comics, and it was all right there, im my reader. It was perfect."
I solved the "Original site" problem by building the original site into NewsBlur -- http://www.newsblur.com.
The other big issue with RSS is that there are too many stories with a low signal-to-noise ratio. I built in filtering and highlighting into NewsBlur to address that concern. And it's a completely separate backend from Google Reader.
And now the common refrain is that people use social channels (Twitter/FB/Tumblr) to find links and news. So I just built that into NewsBlur with shared stories. You can sign up to be a part of the private beta at http://dev.newsblur.com. I'll send out invites to anybody who signs up.
Consuming the web through RSS can be problematic for both publishers and readers. I'm addressing the big three issues - context, relevancy, and surfacing - with a strong commitment to both readers and publishers. Let me know what else you would expect to see in your ideal reading setup, and chances are, RSS offers the foundation to build it.
I hope Google picks something like this up (or hey, just /hires you/ if you're into that) and re-does Reader for 2012 :)
The majority of sites that I personally subscribe to are individual writers. I want to read their writing in the exact format that they intended it to be read. Daring Fireball comes to mind.
I'm also not quite sure about the ad argument, i.e that you're eliminating the revenue of bloggers. The feeds themselves can contain ads, there's the compromise of abstracted posts in feeds, and then there's the distinct possibility that users who are proficient enough to use RSS also have something like AdBlock installed. Personally, I see more ads in feeds than on actual sites, due to dedicated feed readers not blocking ads, and the relative low level of annoyance doesn't prompt me to use a filtering proxy for that - never mind that I could on mobile devices…
Of course, if you have total control over your RSS generation and feel particularly perfectionist, you could always have some minimalistic features present in your feed, probably similar to your print CSS version. Bold and italic for syntax highlighting, for example.
No taste. Very little to no taste.
While you do exactly what I need, these are incredibly complicated times. And I want to be sure that you will solve my issues without introducing complicated buttons and concepts I have to learn first. Plus Icons that hurt my eyes. But that's exactly what you provided.
Would be great if you looked into this matter. Cause as of right now, 3 minutes after my visit, I'm still looking for a solution.
Turns out, I can highlight the text that I "like" in the title of an article and "like" that (or "dislike it"). So I just highlighted the "Four Short Links" part and liked that. Bingo. Done. That is the kind of attention to detail and control that I want to have in a feed reader (assuming it can actually use all that data I'm going to give it, time will tell there).
Also, the complicated things that one sees at first sight are a sign that probably all features, including the ones that I didn't see, are complicated. Which is not what I'm looking for.
That does not make me happy.
But no worries, the betas been live for only a few days. Right now, you're only missing broken unread counts and broken Facebook connect. Be glad you're coming in a bit late.
People want to know when certain websites they care about have new stuff. The fact that RSS can be used to achieve that is, and should have been treated as, completely irrelevant. Nobody except geeks like me care if they're transmitted through RSS, PubSubBubHub or carrier pigeons.
Likewise, I don' think most people care that the website has a "feed" and they need to get a "feeds reader" to be informed.
I think Firefox had the greatest opportunity to make it happen and they blew it. RSS should have been integrated with the bookmarks system, and I don't mean those awful "dynamic bookmarks" or whatever they were called.
When some page was bookmarked, the browser should save its RSS feed URL alongside (hidden!) and use it to alert people to updates to their sites, and provide an one-click way to open the new post(s) in a new tab (and an easy way to disable notifications from that site, certainly).
This would've made RSS useful for much more people and provide a great incentive for websites to provide good feeds. Unfortunately, it remained a geek tool, and so it'll die as such.
Steve Jobs would never have promoted RSS. He would, though, create user experiences based on it. Which really jars my reality to even say it, but your comments/observations and my own experiences (I use RSS exclusively on my phone as an offline info gatherer mostly used when I'm on subways out of Internet range) that 1) RSS is really cool and 2) there are no compelling end-user RSS-based tools.
Hackers probably miss this because they feel the implementation details are a core part of the experience. A system with no implementation details readily available in some form will have a hard time gaining support from the type of nerdy dudes who like to change the world from their garage without significant secondary draws.
The current industry-wide focus on simplified UI and managed UX that has the effect of constraining users into presumptive usage patterns is quite obnoxious to hackers and power-users who want to be in control of their own experience.
I do feel that implementation details matter. But they need not be forefront in the experience itself. And confusing the technology with the experience is a classic blunder (cue: land war in Asia).
All that being said, RSS alone is not exactly the pinnacle of information delivery. What I really want is a better way to identify interesting and informative information and filter out all the junk. This is a very, very hard problem to solve in an automated way. Things like Flipboard are trying to tackle this, but I haven't been able to embrace them. I also don't want to rely on my social network, because I'm different from my network. I have my own interests and priorities (that change over time).
What I want is a feed of information that is what google is to search. Google nearly always shows me exactly what I'm looking for in the top hits. I want something that gives me the most important, useful, and interesting information in a prioritized list all the time. The only thing I've seen get close to this is Fever (http://feedafever.com/). That's a good start, but isn't quite there.
This kind of relationship, where the user trades information about him- or herself for service is sadly all too common on today's internet, and amounts to voluntary participation in a vast spyware network, where you are ever more effectively watched and tracked no matter what you do.
Technologically, it should be quite feasible to do all the RSS feed gathering and filtering for this sort of service on the client's machine, using software installed locally on the user's machine rather than on the service's servers.
Another possibility is to do the processing on the service's servers, but to try to build in some sort of privacy and anonymity guarantees in to the service itself. This is inherently more problematic, since it would really require some sort of verification of those guarantees by a neutral, trusted third-party before it could be completely trusted. But it would still be a big step forward over what we have now.
Good luck with your business, but I'm not going to use it until and unless I can feel secure that I'm not giving you any information about myself, my tastes or my preferences by using it.
And that's why I think Facebook is doing so well - it takes this problem and uses social means to solve it. You probably need the information most of your friends needed. And if you "like" some of what your friend post a lot, you will probably like what he posts next.
That's why RSS is dead and Facebook is thriving. People don't want linear flow of all possible information, especially today with too much information. You need to take the important stuff out - that's why newspapers have frontpages, that's what google news is doing, that's what slashdot/digg/reddit/hacker news is doing. Facebook do it socially.
I've found Facebook and Twitter to be a terrible way to identify high-quality content sources: they ironically lack the social-filter function. It's the cultural norms of a community like HN, combined with its also socially-mediated ranking mechanism, that enable aggregators to function so well as content filters. Facebook and Twitter are disjointed in that no one is taking to precisely the same group of people, and there's no evaluative mechanism at all: if someone you follow posts it, it shows up on your front page. Linear flow of all information is exactly what you get.
Facebook is excellent as a glorified contact list, but I still can't found a purpose for Twitter in my life. Reddit is the real winner: the subreddits are coherent communities, and they can be viewed and subscribed to independently of each other, so you're joining a community of communities, each with its own content-filtering mechanism. Of course, Reddit is essentially a modern version of USENET.
What more could browser makers have done to encourage RSS? Technophiles love it, but the mass market rejected it.
For all intents and purposes, Twitter is a simpler, more intuitive form of RSS for the layperson.
As long as tools like Google Reader exist for those of us who do use RSS, I'm not worried. And if Google kills Reader, it will probably usher in a new renaissance of feed readers that are currently non-existent because of Google's ads-funded largesse.
RSS is now too important to too many people to just die.
I mostly agree, but...
Browsers prominently featured RSS for many years, and the world at large ignored it. Heck, I'm one of those technophiles and I ignored it in the browser. Why? Because RSS should have been about convenience, but the browser implementations did not seem intuitive, and more importantly did not make it clear how it actually worked. All the techies I know who regularly consume content through RSS use a separate reader, and I suggest that's because browser RSS did not actually offer anything compelling (or even useful at all). I could be totally wrong about how useful browser RSS was, but then the problem is that even a moderately competent techie didn't see it and the buck still stops at the browser.
The irony is that I'm now using GoogleReader in a browser on my smartphone (Android) to read RSS feeds. I still have some feeds into my Thunderbird configuration, but mostly ignore them there.
I tried the Google RSS feed reader app (Android) and didn't like it. I have not tried other RSS apps, the web-based GoogleReader meets my needs (I have a personal policy to minimize the number of install apps).
I will be really bummed, though, to see it removed from Mail.app. The Mail client has been the perfect place for me personally because I use RSS as a way to receive notifications. I use it for everything from following twitter search feeds, to monitoring eBay auctions to our own internal error-logging system.
I think RSS suffers from lack of awareness to the average person. I've showed it to a number of people and many of them have gone on to become power RSS users. My wife uses it to monitor knitting sites and to watch for search terms to bring up results on craigslist. It's really fantastic when you know how to use it. But they had no idea what it was or how to use it before I mentioned it.
Having to write custom code for each service you're interested in sucks compared to adding some RSS endpoints into an array.
Personally, I think RSS died of natural causes; it was never a threat to any walled gardens.
If RSS is killed, what will replace it? Not for the case of Twitter or TechCrunch, where there will always be new content when you visit and it doesn't matter if you miss some, but for rare but important postings.
RSS is of course unbelievably useful, and people who understood that the content of a site was being published side by side in a human readable but totally nonstandard format (HTML) and a machine readable and much more standard format (RSS,ATOM,etc.) instantly grabbed some kind of reader and subscribed to anything they were interested in.
I tried to preach the gospel of feeds. I tried to get people to subscribe to MY blogs. Even most of my medium-technical friends said, "Yeah, that whole reader thing sounds cool, I've been meaning to set that up." Non-technical people simply subscribed to things via email.
If somehow email could have organized itself more naturally into push (email) and pull (feeds) buckets, then it could have perhaps happened naturally, but confusing standards, implementations, and no real great way to explain the benefits to new users is what killed RSS (and XML feeds in general)... there was no war.
When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, my guess is that RSS doesn't accomplish what those services are made for. As they have evolved, the reverse chronological posting has become less important.
Plus, if you were Twitter, how would you want people to consume those tweets? Would you rather get them immediately or several minutes later in a format that has no context in the world of Twitter?
With that being said, I think RSS still plays a role in consolidating and consuming news in a central location. But it should be up to the site designers/developers to offer an easy way to "subscribe" to that site (via email or RSS).
Unlike BACK I click an RSS icon once and subscribe in another application—and only if I already like the site/news/feed. So for the users like me that just click the button once and awhile to subscribe to a feed in another piece of software, like Vienna or Mail, we appear as a false low.
I use Chrome, so that doesn't help Firefox in my case. But Chrome doesn't show RSS links either. I wish they still offered the option.
As long as there are extensions I am ok with removing this icon from browser itself.
The last couple of years I mostly read RSS on my iPad / iPhone or using Google Reader (which is okay'ish).
For me following my Google Reader subscriptions via Reeder is a daily habit. I guess I use it more often than Safari on my iPad.
That said I would absolutely miss RSS if it was gone.
Is there any evidence that blogs are dropping RSS? I think one of RSS's major applications was for blogs to distribute their content. The examples given in this article, such as Twitter and Facebook are both apps that also have APIs available, so RSS in those cases are kind of redundant.
One could also make the argument that RSS is bad for the bottom line, as selling advertising, and generating revenue off of it is far more difficult than traditional websites.
The other big question is whether or not users are still using aggregators. If aggregator use is down, then that could suggest the decline of RSS or RSS like technology.
Finally, RSS probably still has a future in podcasting.
I can't just import their API into an RSS reader with a single click.
On the other hand: I probably could, if I spent a few days reading up the documentation, writing up an app, testing it, and then deploying and hosting it, resulting in an RSS feed that (e.g.) Google Reader could process.
My fiance? No way.
On the gripping hand, my fiance doesn't care about RSS and doesn't use it. I'd argue that most twitter users probably don't, either. So there doesn't seem to be much loss.
And services like Flipboard benefit having access restricted to an API, as it limits its availability, which helps them monetize off of it.
For example, I follow the BikeEXIF blog (http://www.bikeexif.com/) via his Twitter feed on Flipboard. This feed includes all of the blog posts, plus links to other 3rd party content, commentary, and so on. This is much more interesting than a pure RSS feed.
RSS may not be as useful to real humans, but I do think it's tremendously important and very much alive as a service to service standard. I wrote the RSS ingestion system for Flipboard. When reading the BikeEXIF blog on Fliboard via the @bikeEXIF Twitter stream, the content of each article is fetched from the blog's RSS feed.
I view RSS as a great way to follow important-ish things like people's personal blogs and tech blogs and so on. Large pieces of content, everything bigger than, say, 400 words should be in RSS.
Whereas twitter and facebook are for conversation. It's where people post silly things that nobody really cares about. Using those streams to get actual news? Yeah, doesn't quite work ... following just 1031 people on twitter means there are 5 new posts every time I refresh.
That is not an environment where I'd expect to discover big chunks of info. And it's also not something I would want mixed up with the slow moving big content stuff.
The truth is that RSS was a cool technology searching for a reason to exist. It managed to find it on occasions (podcasting is still alive, twitter basically used RSS as the "first draft" for their service, etc) but not in the big way most geeks thought it would. Commercial and user interests did not align with a vision of complete openness where standardized feeds get pushed from machine to machine, moving free and public content everywhere. Also, most services found the format to be a straight-jacket, and once you start adding custom namespaces, you might as well just use your own format. It fit well only for periodically-updated news/blog sites, which is what it was built for. And its worst sin is that it's fundamentally a one-way technology, a broadcasting tool, not a bi-directional tool. Social tools can be built on top of it, but at that point it becomes just another messaging format, and not particularly efficient either.
RSS will survive in some form (like RDF, remember that?) but will never gain widespread popularity, unless it's somehow reinvented in a way that will align with the interests of big commercial players and/or large number of users -- something we failed to do in the last 10+ years.
blogs -> rss -> rss2twitter gateway -> twitter -> me
So it has become a backend technology, and RSS has been given a better marketing term - 'following' (or 'subscribing'). It just isn't being directly consumed by users any more, which is why you don't need it as an icon in apps, but RSS is definitely still being consumed by other apps.
I found that the problem with most newsreaders wasn't the technology or terminology, but that they presented news items in an email view - ie. every item needs to be actioned, whereas the answer was a stream where you scan and interesting items were actions. The other problem was discovery. Nobody really worked out how to recommend other sources or feeds from within the reader applications.
Twitter kinda accidentally nailed both of those issues.
- a lot of energy was poured into the absolutely stupid who gets credit for what, who did what to whom, who linked what where, who’s the real napster wars of 2002-2005.
- RSS and Atom are frozen relics of the post web 1.0 pre web 2.0 era. Support for anything other than html or text is a grab bag of works in this reader, doesn't work in that reader, is silently and completely removed by this other reader.
- it's in no one's best interests (financially, spiritually, professionally) for RSS to “succeed”. It had many fathers, all of whom moved on to other things, even 410'ing their online selves.
- it's difficult to monetize RSS. Ads may or may not work, you have to resort to gimmicks and most savvy users (who are likely a majority of the people reading your feed in the first place) are blocking ads, so there.
- it's difficult to prove the value of RSS to the publisher: how many people read this item? Dunno. You can't trust the number of unique user agents pulling the feed, because more likely than not they're mostly spam bots looking for content to republish. You could choose to trust the feedburner statistics, if you're using FB.
- RSS feeds can't be styled in any useable, uniform way. To many people this is a benefit of RSS, but it means that inline images that work great in the original article end up out of context. Any attempt to use CSS styling to set off differences in an article are mostly lost. There are some work arounds but mostly manual hacks.
The public has moved on. It sucks. RSS feeds will continue to be available for years, if not decades because they’re built into the publishing plumbing of many systems. There were gopher servers running well into the late 1990s in various places, much to the surprise at times of security administrators.
When faced with a public user base that goes to google.com and then types in the web site they want in the search box, we responded with RSS/Atom. It is a much better way of reviewing and consuming a lot of information, but the user experience sucks, and it’s in no one’s interests to fix that.
Find a way to profit, stunningly, from RSS and it’ll take off again. Continue to confine it to the techno–geek ghetto and that’s where it will remain.
Second, these social streams provide an additional social filter to the news, something that RSS news never did. These social filters also provide a layer to comment, share and discuss, which is another feature altogether missing in RSS.
Lastly, social streams avoid the challenge most RSS readers faced: the inbox with 1000+ items to read and no way to sift through them. Social streams create a time value decay function for this data. Facebook’s EdgeRank uses a combination of different signals to ensure relevancy so when users login the feed is only timely, relevant content, not an inbox of every status update and share. Twitter uses time to reduce the number of items in the feed.
And I follow HN via RSS.
Many people subscribe to newsletters for exactly the same reason other people use RSS.
I also did it the other way around, and I dearly miss it on 10.8: I subscribed to RSS for stuff that other people use email notifications for. Mostly blog post comments and AppWorld reviews, both of which are often support requests in disguise. Adding the StackOverflow search query for a library I wrote was also awesome. Extremely low traffic & always better to read within a day.
No doubt. But I feel that I'm in a different mindset when I'm looking to read and looking to deal with email. It just reminds me of where iTunes has taken us, from being a music player to become a media and DRM management system. I was happy that didn't try and shove the Mac App Store in there as well.
I think that YACG, AutoBlogs, and so forth have also made website owners question the value of publishing RSS feeds as well.
Personally though, as someone who has launched several niche blogs over the years I find publishing an RSS feed to most of the big feed directories to be the best way to get a ton of backlinks to a new sit in a very short amount of time.
Of course large established sites have no need of this "benefit" so they largely view RSS as brand-dilution factor, not a brand-promotion factor.
I always found the idea compelling. I've tried using readers. Taken time to put in my feeds, but it never really became part of my routine. When I've been away loggin in feels like a chore. Frequently updated feeds drowned out the others. There hvae never been conventions that work around it either. What happens when an entry is updated, for example. What happens when you click the rss icon. etc etc.
I really wanted rss (and I still use it) but it was never right.
You should give a try to http://www.newsblur.com/
It comes with an intelligence trainer that will present the new entries based on your ratings of previous entries.
It also have very simple keyboard shortcuts to view the entry on the original site without leaving the window at all.
Say, for example, I want to show a list of items from a 3rd party in a sidebar on my site. With a few lines of jQuery or other similar lib, I can do that no problem.
Maybe RSS, just like XML-RPC which was still much better than SOAP but has fallen by the wayside in favour of REST + JSON, can be supplanted in the same way.
For blogs that are seeking to make money out of advertising, it is difficult to justify why they should send out the content out as RSS feed. If you send full text, then user does not come to the site. If you send excerpts then users are not happy.
One thing to try out could be push full fledged web pages inside the RSS feeds. Instead of just getting the text, I would get images, layout and advertisements as well (but of course still just the content, not the "chrome"). Reading this kind of blog entry on my "RSS" reader would be more like looking at the actual web site of the blog. Consuming large amounts of web sites this way would be faster than visiting them one-by-one with the browser. Publishers benefit could be that users would browse through more of their content (on web I usually pick few articles to read, with this I would probably cursory browse through most of content (and get exposure to the related ads).
So for your question - it will take lots of effort to relocate RSS reader and large portion of user base will be lost in transition.
Seriously, though, are these "foo is broken/dead" stories being pushed by people who want to monetize 'improved' versions?
Also needs grouping. Again, there's a hundred of them, I need hierarchy.
RSS will live on if content creators continue to provide it. I think the issue is that no one except tech people really care, so at least the tech blogs (and Hacker News) will continue to support it.
Getting content via social networks seems like a step backwards, but it seems like it's what most folks are fine with.
Don't kill RSS, write a nice guide on how to use it for non-techies and make it viral.
The only "war" against RSS is in the mind of tech bloggers.