Almost every modern website uses RSS feeds to deliver content to users. But, in the time of social networks is RSS still really the way to push information to readers?
RSS is a big technology as it allows people to subscribe to content and then read it latter in their readers, maybe offline or in another terminal. The problem is that this technology is being replaced with faster mediums. Social networks are to blame in part for this, for example twitter even made everything fit into 140 characters. To write a blog post with more than 300 words has become the exception rather than the rule, and the majority of sites try to deliver information fast and in a continuous stream of small consumable snippets.
It’s fast food time in the interwebs and no one seems to care.
In this context, RSS that once allowed you to get the information you wanted in a longer and probably well organised application, is now being declared dead. RSS is not natural for 140 character long messages (although twitter as RSS feeds for their users). It was invented for longer conversations and readings. It even managed to be used to send large media files to users, as in Podcasts (are these also dead?).
But, although RSS is great, it seems that it is fading into the background. It’s being used more and more as data exchange mechanism. A way for your website to send information to Google or Bing rather that to your users. Google even suggests adding your RSS feed as the sitemap file in their website. During some time microformats were what every body was talking about, but as very few standards were defined, microformats never really got into mainstream websites, and for all practical uses RSS is/was the workhorse of data sharing.
Although invisible to most users, RSS still is around (even if I removed the subscribe RSS button from the top right you can still access it).
The news that Bloglines (one of the first online RSS aggregators where you could read news from your favorite sites) was closing, made a stir around the webs as people suddenly realised how dependent they are of this technology. Luckily, Ask.com agreed with MerchantCircle to keep Bloglines active as a recognition of its importance even if the glory days of Bloglines are now past (at least while google reader is dominating the market and the next big thing doesn’t show up).
In the RSS world there was a time of feast that passed. That time was the time of multiple reader applications and strong development. When it was found that there was no business model for RSS and Google Reader became dominant, RSS faded into it’s secondary passive role. It’s probably one of the most used pieces of technologies around and one that people rely on transparently. This will make keep it alive.
I bet it will survive these strange times of junk food and fast driving.
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