RSS is Dead Hubbub

There’s been a bit of a twitter-frenzy over the past couple of days regarding the death of RSS. There are a couple of sides to this coin, and the only side I’m taking is lament that the only thing I’ll never see is the death of “death of…” predictions.

But the idea that RSS is dead because referrals from RSS are down is nonsense. RSS may generate referrals, but the idea of using a full RSS feed in the first place is to not follow the link – it’s to stay within the reader. It’s syndication after all.

Some are saying that the big sites have an issue with this because it erodes traffic to their site, and in response they might be threatening to remove their RSS feeds (see Why Big Media Wants to Kill RSS, and Why We Shouldn’t Let It). I’m not sure I buy that. If RSS users are so few (and getting fewer), then why would these sites be concerned about the few visitors they’re missing out on?

So there’s no logic in killing it on purpose, so I’m guessing this isn’t going to happen. Technically speaking, RSS is an open Internet standard (a family of standards actually), so it can’t actually be killed. Sites could choose not to use it though. And if that’s where this is going, then it’s terribly unfortunate, but it doesn’t diminish RSS’s power and usefulness as an open building block for other technologies.

Is that what the buzz is about? Because I’ve also read that RSS is dying a natural death due to Twitter. What’s happening is that sites are publishing Headline + Link via Twitter in an attempt to generate hype to drive people to the site. In other words, Twitter is a non-stop bait feed – a buzz machine – and the reason people are starting to use it instead of RSS is because they can follow the hype.

This, I can buy. However this won’t lead to the “death” of RSS – just lower numbers. Still not a reason to “kill” RSS either – same argument as above.

But there’s more! While I’ve seen some posts talking about the above, I’ve also seen an interesting article talking about the death of Twitter! Dave Winer gets into the meat of it in the last three paragraphs. Basically, the Internet is built on open technologies like TCP/IP, SMTP, DNS, HTTP and RSS. Companies like Twitter – or let’s look at something more pertinent – Xmarks and Delicious and Geocities – may come up with game-changing ways to share and communicate, but in the end they can, and will, fall. And by fall, I include getting sold to a larger corporation with different priorities. And when users (and publishers) catch on or a polarizing issue crops up as Dave mentions, they demand open alternatives. Like RSS? No – like Twitter, but open. Open technologies like RSS that allow future open technologies to be built, and hosted, by anybody, anywhere.

I love this post by Dave because it hones in on the key issue I’ve always had with Twitter – it’s not an “unbundled” system. I can’t run my own Twitter server. (I don’t know why I’d want to either – Twitter is not really structured for multiple domains, but that’s not the point.) If and when Twitter ever ceases operation, its brilliant medium of communication (and I do think Twitter is brilliant) goes along with it. And the Internet basically grinds to a halt because we’ve all tuned our way of finding content to be Twitter–centric and eliminated open options.

Segue… discussion on Net Neutrality!

These are interesting times.

Some additional reading:

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