With the imminent demise of Google Reader there’s a lot of talk about how this is a death blow for RSS. I don’t really get this. Does anyone remember the stuff about “the death of comments” in the late 2000s? E.g.:
It’s sad and disappointing but the death of blog comments may be near. It’s getting harder and harder to fight against the hordes of spammers and mediocrity and animosity out there.
That’s from 2007. Granted, many blogs and media organizations have worthless comments sections. But not all by any stretch. And arguably technology like Disqus has made comments more, not less, relevant, due to features like “up voting” (I’m aware that Slashdot had this a long time ago!). Around the same time there was also the “death of email”. Like blog comments, email is still around.
The question is why? Because these formats have their own role in the information ecology. If you want to send a short, informal, missive to your friends now Facebook offers you an alternative to email. But if you want to send a longer formal message to a co-worker email is usually preferable (do you really want your boss to know your Facebook account?). Similarly, comments serve a particular function of public discussion which is important enough that defenses were developed by firms against their abuse.
For now you can find my feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/GeneExpressionBlog (Google might shut down FeedBurner at some point). Here are some alternatives to Google Reader. And if you want to know why RSS matters, here’s another article. One issue with regards to RSS as I understand it is that the average web user isn’t too familiar with it. In contrast, someone like me who is a heavy information consumer finds it indispensable. So even if the RSS format dies, I’m pretty sure there would be applications which specialized in scraping data from websites and organizing it in an RSS-like manner.