It’s always odd to hear people say RSS is dead. The fact is, RSS is easily the most successful stealth, insurgent technology on the web. It is pervasive and is the engine for much of the Internet.
Apple uses it to syndicate computer updates. Your podcast subscriptions rely on RSS. Every Wordpress blog is RSS enabled and every major news site is broadcasting via RSS. They’re all syndicated. They all have an RSS feed. It’s the background hum of the Internet.
There are millions of feeds out there, continually connecting users to their favorite content. Just about everything online except Facebook and Twitter is available via RSS.
Even more importantly, RSS has proven to be resilient and durable regardless of what corporate interests want to do with it. Netscape invented the underlying code in the late 90’s, and then took away all documentation and support in 2001 after AOL bought them out. But even that didn’t slow the dissemination.
And then last year, the biggest player on the Internet took its ball and went home when Google killed its Reader. Despite the fact that Google retired the most popular RSS application on the Net, it did not affect RSS in any appreciable way. All of those feeds are still available and users are still getting their content delivered exactly as they want it. What greater proof is there of the resiliency of RSS?
In fact, what might have seemed like a disaster at first is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the technology. Remember, RSS is a technology and a service; it is not a product. AOL thought they could squash this great idea, but a community of developers took the idea and ran. Then Google thought they could abandon the technology and assumed everyone would gravitate to their social networks instead.
In fact, any number of companies can go out of business, but nobody can stop anybody from publishing and reading RSS feeds.
However, just because a technology is widely available does not guarantee success. What makes RSS truly powerful is that users still have the control. The beauty of the system is it that no one can force you to be tracked and no one can force you to watch ads. There are no security issues I am aware of and no one ever has to know what feeds you subscribe to. This may be the last area of the Internet that you can still say things like this.
Google Reader was a monopolist product built on an anti-monopolist technology. Now that they’re gone, RSS is once again anyone’s game. You’re going to see a lot more innovation and new stuff for RSS. I never know if its supposed to be a blessing or a curse to live in interesting times. But I have to believe this RSS is entering maybe the most interesting time in its long history.
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