Is RSS Really Dead?

I'm usually the last guy to know, and the first to admit it, but is RSS really dead? I keep seeing posts claiming Twitter and Facebook have essentially replaced RSS as the way folks filter their news these days, but I for one am still addicted to my RSS client…

IMy Shrook.png‘m usually the last guy to know, and the first to admit it, but is RSS really dead? I keep seeing posts claiming Twitter and Facebook have essentially replaced RSS as the way folks filter their news these days, but I for one am still addicted to my RSS client (it’s Shrook, for anyone who still cares).  

Perhaps RSS isn’t dead, but instead it’s professionalizing. It’s the Beta to the VHS of Twitter. Higher quality, better signal, but more expensive in terms of time, and used only by folks “in the industry.”

I write, every single day (especially with Signal), and I consume a lot of feeds in order to do that. I need a professional tool that lets me do that efficiently, and so far nothing beats an RSS reader. But I’m serious about my feeds, and most folks, I guess aren’t.

Or are you? I mean, sure, Feedburner is languishing over at Google, I hear, but

Potemkim or Real.pnghell, I have 207,000 readers consuming my feed, at least, that’s what Google tells me. And that’s up from about 170K earlier this year. Are you out there, RSS readers? Or am I blasting XML into a ghost town?

Just wonderin. Shout out if you’re here, guys. And shout out if you’re reading this because someone pointed to it on Twitter….

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

145 thoughts on “Is RSS Really Dead?”

  1. Well if RSS is indeed dead, then neither I nor my Google Reader got the message. The highlights from my Trends page in Google Reader:

    “From your 123 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 8,829 items, clicked 756 items, starred 229 items, shared 22 items, and emailed 22 items.
    Since December 19, 2006 you have read a total of 254,648 items.”

  2. I check my feeds every day, just as I do with my e-mails. So, RSS is dead? I don’t have a profile in any social network and I don’t care.

  3. I love reading via RSS, but wish I could participate in the comments through Google Reader. I do feel left out, and go back and forth between only reading in a reader and visiting sites so I can participate in the discussion.

  4. Can’t live without my RSS Reader (Google). In fact, with so many option, I opt not to read RSS feeds that don’t post the full text too.

  5. Crap, does this mean I’ve come (yet again) to the hip, happening party years late? Let me go hitch up my donkey cart and see if I can catch the Luddites up the road.

    In the meantime, I guess I do hear an echo in the chamber I call my Google Reader.

  6. I use Google Reader for infrequently updating blogs.

    If I subscribe to frequently updating sites (say techcrunch, readwriteweb, etc.), then my Google Reader headlines are inundated by my ‘high volume’ sources. So, I prefer to actually visit these sites separately (yes, and this is a pain).

    On twitter, i follow people i ‘kinda like’, but it won’t matter if i missed a post from them.

  7. “RSS is dead” is used by investors and entrepreneurs to mean that it’s no longer relevant to them – investors won’t fund startups based on RSS technology and entrepreneurs are unlikely to found them. They’ve moved on to newer pastures – twitter for now…

    “RSS is dead” really means that RSS has matured, that it’s stable. While growth may not be explosive, it doesn’t mean it can’t still grow, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for 1MM RSS subcribers (up from 207K)

    Just because RSS is dead, doesn’t mean it isn’t influential. Just because RSS is dead, doesn’t mean it doesn’t represent the majority of your ‘readers’ – in fact RSS probably represents your most consistent readers who read everything you write.

  8. “RSS is dead” is used by investors and entrepreneurs to mean that it’s no longer relevant to them – investors won’t fund startups based on RSS technology and entrepreneurs are unlikely to found them. They’ve moved on to newer pastures – twitter for now…

    “RSS is dead” really means that RSS has matured, that it’s stable. While growth may not be explosive, it doesn’t mean it can’t still grow, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for 1MM RSS subscribers (up from 207K)

    Just because RSS is dead, doesn’t mean it isn’t influential. Just because RSS is dead, doesn’t mean it doesn’t represent the majority of your ‘readers’ – in fact RSS probably represents your most consistent readers who read everything you write.

  9. Outside the “echo chamber” RSS is fine and healthy I presume.

    I use Twitter to sample what’s going on and sue RSS for my regular reading

  10. I can’t imagine using Twitter of Facebook the way I use an RSS reader, even with a fancy client, of Twitter’s new design.

    I think it is quite possible, though by no means guaranteed, that RSS has another renaissance. People did a lot of good work to make it easy to produce, discover, and consume, but things were still complicated enough to hinder broad adoption, and so more vertically integrated solutions, like Facebook and Twitter have taken hold. I think a lot of what happens depends on whether people in the RSS sphere keep making improvements, or whether most / all the energy is flowing to working with other channels.

    I think the chance for another blooming of RSS is helped by how widely supported it is. Various providers might prefer to shift to channels that give them more control and drive more traffic to their sites, but the people who depend on RSS are still influential.

  11. Ok- you really don’t need my input now but I’ll leave it anyway. I was mobile yesterday so didn’t take the time to comment but diligently saved your post as ‘unread’ and am coming back to it now. I, too am a faithful reader from RSS- my reader is Google Reader. There is now way I’d ever keep up with anything online if it weren’t for RSS feeds.

    And- interestingly enough, I’m a ‘dinosaur’ in that I don’t do twitter. At all. But I’ll do RSS until they really truly die and you can’t! πŸ˜‰

  12. Read using Google Reader.

    (Between work and home, I’m constantly using Win, Mac, Redhat and iPhone; so, web reader is the only meaningful option.)

  13. I use Google Reader as my first Point of entry for surfing. I read this blog on it. But then that may just be because I don’t use Twitter much…

    The personal vs pro distinction is exactly it I think. But then as Facebook and Twitter start to get more professinal…

  14. RSS could never be dead. To be without RSS is like slowly taking the internet to the cemetary. How would ppl know what’s new? Webmasters would cry like little kindergarden bby’s, because they wouldn’t be able to have their website RSS content updated using automation. Their search engine rankings would suffer enormously; they would not increase online ad revenue; they would not be able to be of service to others, in feeling useful content to their RSS feed readers. The internet would be like a ghosttown at daylight, without RSS…

  15. RSS is far from dead – it’s just a tool of a more sophisticated audience. I have yet to find a person that would be a good source of news on Twitter; it’s mostly noise and very little signal.

    Theoretically traditional news is 95% bull.. too, but I prefer making my own choices and not having my news mixed with musings about what someone had for breakfast.

    I’m reading your blog on a graphical RSS reader of my own invention.

  16. No offense but, this is kinda lazy. You have stats from Google telling you people pull your RSS feed, your logs should probably show links coming from rss readers to the site. You don’t need people leaving comments telling you that they use RSS readers to know this.

    This is what I don’t like about the tech community. It’s as if Congress were about to cut off funding for the interstate system because they aren’t getting any letters about it from their constituents.

    This is the first time I’ve ever *visited* your site. It was recommended to me through Google reader and I subscribed to your RSS feed.

    Just because there aren’t new startups built around RSS or shiny new technologies popping out in this space doesn’t mean RSS is dead.

  17. Getting caught up on my feeds and saw your shout out for opinions re: RSS. As I’m getting caught up on my unreads in google reader, it’s obvious where I stand. GR allows me to consume and process far more information than I could otherwise. And while I’m riding the exercise bike in the evenings, I keep up with about 10 feeds not in my reader via pulse for iphone, which I also really like.

  18. Thanks for bringing back this topic. Every once in a while, this debate need to be revived.

    Twitter vs. RSS is like apples vs. oranges.

    RSS is essential, and becoming more invisible, a victim of its own success (Isn’t technology supposed to be best when invisible?). But Readers haven’t kept up with users needs, that’s why some people have given them up in favor of the next shiny thing: Twitter. But after you follow a few interesting people, then you’re back at the management nightmare of managing your feeds. This time, it’s people vs. RSS feeds. So, when Twitter management of people becomes a nightmare, are we going to say “People are dead”?

    The failure is on the part of easy of management of RSS, filtering and mining choices.

  19. There is one thing that’s worrying me, though.
    I’m seeing more and more new sites with great content and no RSS feed. Rather, they opt for a Twitter or Facebook link for news updates.

  20. What if you could have both the real-time aspect of Twitter and the topical personalization of RSS in one service? Could that service kill RSS?

    It’s just getting started, so content submissions are still sparse, but Poundwire.com is trying to fill this void. It might be worth keeping an eye on if you’re trying to juggle a reader and a twitter account, and filter out the noise.

  21. Oh, we’re here.

    Beyond curiosity, I consider web reading to be a part of my job. For those of us that are, in this sense, professional info consumers and curators – esp those lucky enough to love it, too – RSS is still indispensable.

  22. Great questions posed and terrific feedback from all.
    I can’t envisage Twitter taking over my RSS habits anytime soon as you can’t fit the same volume of info into 180 characters (regardless of the URLs supplied) and I find it harder to continuously monitor twitter where RSS affords me the option to read specific peoples updates when i’m ready to without having to remember to look under that person.
    Facebook is no where near closer to having the capabilities of information sharing that RSS and Twitter afford.

  23. 140 comments and running answers your question, I think. I use Facebook for social news (whose cat died) and Twitter for nothing at all. RSS is my morning newspaper, and also where I aggregate technical information such as the health of our servers. Flexible, easy, essential.

    I suspect RSS has become so integrated for us that we no longer talk about it – hence the misperception that it’s dead.

  24. RSS DEAD!Β  Hardly…Β  How else can one keep up with 40 websites of interest?Β  I can see why it is hard to gather the numbers and advistors may not like them due to a lack of click throughs, but for the end user, the ability to scan headlines on so many different websites and only taking the time on the headlines of interest is such a time saver.

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