A long hot summer in the United States is predictable for a numbers of things: hurricanes, fires in California, and the tired old meme that RSS is dead. This summer has been no different on either front, and the RSS is dead meme is back.
They say that all that is old is new again, and the same goes for the latest RSS is dead chorus line of tech illiterates and blogging masturbators linkbaiters. Depending on who you listen to, RSS is dead due to: Twitter, Feedburner, Google, Twitter again, and some bizarre argument that death can be presumed because use of feed readers never truly passed into the mainstream, and probably never will.
The flaw with all these arguments remains the same as it has always: a fundamental misunderstanding at what RSS is, and how it is used. The RSS is dead pundits claim that RSS is dead because RSS readers are dying off (having never really caught on among the majority of people online,) and that instead Twitter is fast taking its place. That Twitter is becoming a popular choice for breaking news is a given, but that neither precludes the use of feed readers, but most importantly doesn’t preclude the continued use of RSS itself.
Dave Winer says it the best: “You don’t have to be a tech scholar to know that RSS is like XML or HTML or HTTP or text files. It’s fabric, permanent, it ain’t going anywhere.” RSS is a building block that facilitates distribution into others services. You need look no further than Twitter itself to find that one of the most popular methods of sharing posts on Twitter are “RSS to Twitter” services; that feed readers are falling out of popularity (or no longer experiencing growth) is only a small part of the RSS picture. Then you have services like FriendFeed, and soon Facebook (who does use RSS, but is about to get a serious FriendFeed code dose) that aggregate content from RSS; that’s just a short list of services I use, but are ones among many who use RSS in a similar way. RSS is the simple facilitator of data sharing that continues to be built upon.
But why do the pundits continue to proclaim RSS is dead when the evidence for those with even a base level of understanding can clearly see that it’s not? I’ll leave the last word to Fred Wilson (who inspired the image above): “So when you read a post that says ‘XYZ is killing ABC’, I suggest you see it for what it is, a lame attempt to get pageviews because the author had nothing interesting to contribute on the topic.”