The “death of RSS”

By Razib Khan | March 16, 2013 2:57 pm

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.

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  • Luis Aldamiz

    It may rather be the death of Google. OK, I exaggerate but the day after I got the notice from Google in a pop-up, I got an email from WordPress inciting me to join their reader. I’ve been planning to move my blogs (or at least one of them) to WP for some time, and this kind of stuff only tells me one clear message: it’s about time to switch platforms.

    • razibkhan

      well, i think the issue is that google is becoming more of a services-to-business oriented firm than services-to-consumer oriented firm. more SAP than apple. the hybrid consumer/business lines mean that it is starting to resemble microsoft in some ways. that is a death of sorts, a living death….

  • YordanGeorgiev

    http://www.pulse.me – works on android and any browser …

    • razibkhan

      i have pulse, and have had it for a while. for me it’s a complement, not a replacement (like twitter).

      • TheBrett

        The Old Reader is supposed to be a Google Reader clone, so I’m going to try that when late June rolls around. It even lets you import your stuff from Google Reader.

        Pulse . . . ugh. I don’t want visuals (aside from pictures in posts), I just want clean, neat text.

  • http://twitter.com/Animelee Andrew Selvarasa

    I use the Sage add-on for Firefox.

  • phanmo

    As a heavy rss user, I’m as irritated as the next by the death of Reader but rss as a format is just too damn useful to disappear. I think that Google has shot themselves in the foot a bit here because now a group of heavy/savvy internet users will no longer be staying signed in to Google, which will deprive Google of their data.

  • TheBrett

    What’s weird is seeing people talk about how Twitter is supposedly a substitute for RSS. It’s not – Twitter is like jumping into a conversation and getting short asides out, while RSS is like receiving a continuous series of news letters.

    Good point about e-mail. I really haven’t seen a substitute for it in terms of “long form office messages where time isn’t the most critical factor”.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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