Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About RSS

Brent Simmons:

Here’s what I think is actually dead: the notion that software that makes you subscribe to feeds that you run across in your browser will ever cross the chasm.

It’s not entirely clear to me why this is, because it doesn’t seem much different from following someone on Twitter, but this does seem to be the case.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

Following someone on Twitter is frictionless because it's all in Twitter and is fully integrated with it. But the experience of adding a feed is not at all the same experience: there is not standard button on the web sites themselves; it is also quite cryptic in Safari (despite the more unified interface, the RSS blue button in the address bar; even the implementation in Safari is not very good I think, integration into the bookmarks was a smart idea, but quite confusing in practice; and then other browsers doing it differently. Finally, the name itself, with the word RSS frankly being quite scary, and then some extra confusion with the variant 'Atom' and others.

So following people on Twitter is very similar to adding feeds to your RDD reader, but in practice, adding a feed and reading those is challenging for most users, and even Apple+Safari failed at that. There is still a very healthy market of slightly-more-savvy users that will appreciate an RSS reader, though.

Sorry should have edited my comment better, bunch of typos. Sigh.

@Charles Yes, I don’t know anyone who uses Apple+Safari. However, I think Google Reader has by far the most market share, and it’s not all that different from Twitter except for the inconsistent feed buttons. I do wonder whether “normal” Twitter users, who use it as a replacement for RSS, click a Twitter link/button and then choose to follow, or whether they see @nytimes or @ConanOBrien written somewhere (which is much friendlier than a URL) and just type it in.

I wouldn't be surprised if more people subscribed to RSS feeds than use Twitter, but the second is simply more visible than the former, because it's centralized and easily measurable.

@Lukas I think there may currently be more people subscribed to RSS feeds, but that was not Brent’s point. Twitter seems to be reaching new people who will likely never get on board with RSS.

I thought of mentioning Google Reader, that's indeed a good example of probably a better integration in the browser, and at least you stay in the browser. The lack of consistency definitely remains. And it's a good point that the twitter handle format could help too, as they are easier to remember or jot down.

"Twitter seems to be reaching new people who will likely never get on board with RSS."

This is true. But RSS will still be around when Twitter is dead.

- Open standards
- Decentralized
- Not owned by a private company
- Real URL's instead of hashbangs

RSS is dead. Long live RSS.

Huh. I just figured out how to get Twitter feeds via RSS. I thought that wasn't possible these days.

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