At the top of Hacker News this morning is a dirge mourning the end of RSS support on the web:

The good news is that there’s at least one thing that Facebook, Apple, Twitter and (to a lesser extent so far) Google seem to agree on. The bad news is that it’s that RSS, one of the beacons of openness on the internet, is the enemy.

The War on RSS

Social protocols are replacing RSS. In my view, Twitter and Facebook are better versions of RSS.  First, they reach many more people. It’s easier to “follow” something than to subscribe to an RSS feed (has a bit of a medical ring to it, no?).

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.

Overall, these social streams are a fantastic evolution of a technology that was initially geared toward techies. Now everyone can enjoy the benefits.


7 thoughts on “RSS is dead. Social streams have killed it.

  1. I think I have to disagree with you. I’m sort of a niche blogger within the book blogging community and facebook and twitter don’t do a very good job of finding content that is relevant to me. Mostly I get updates about what people had for lunch and that type of thing. I agree that there is a lot to sort through through rss feeds, but this is the content I want because I’ve selected it and taken the time to subscribe to producers of content that are relevant to me. I think maybe Google + might be helpful in this way eventually with it’s circles. i can put my favorite content producers in one circle and see what they are sharing.

    • Like you, I’m an RSS die hard and I think there will always be a place for it. But look at the number of Washington Post followers on Twitter (1M) and on Facebook (0.4M). Google Reader records 14k for Washington Post Breaking News. The differences in scale are orders of magnitude. Social readers are much more accepted by the masses.

  2. I see this all the time when looking at subscriber stats for various blogs – the number of subscribers via email, and often the number of Twitter followers, is frequently 20x the (estimated) number of RSS subscribers.

    RSS never had enough involvement from the marketing and UX folks – it was, and is, too “techie”, for mainstream adoption.

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