The Death of the RSS Reader: Another Debate That Needs to End!

9 thoughts on “The Death of the RSS Reader: Another Debate That Needs to End!”

  1. @elsua I made the switch to RSS a while ago … and read your blog post from inside Google Reader. While I would prefer to use an offline reader with online replication, I find the current design of products of this class not up to the refinement of e-mail on fat clients with a webmail option.

    Unfortunately, we seem to be in an age where a large majority of people are satisfied with working in the cloud (i.e. webmail), so perhaps there won’t ever be a sufficiently large market for geezers like me.

    1. Hi David! Thanks for the feedback! Yes, I, too, have been using RSS feeds for a while and wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I use a combination of both offline and online feed reading in order to get the most out of both worlds. It’s interesting to see how our demands for the perfect RSS feed reader have never been met and instead we keep saying how our email systems seem to be doing the trick! Funny, eh? After all of these years!!

      I agree with you that most folks out there are content with working on the cloud, but, to me, the biggest challenge that social networking has and RSS feeds for that matter is the ability to work offline, when you are disconnected. Because not everyone has got a steady Internet connection at all times. That’s going to be one of our main challenges in the next couple of years! For sure! Specially, for those folks on the road! 🙂

      We shall see how that challenge paves out eventually, but it surely looks rather interesting!

  2. Luis, I am not completely clear what you are saying here. RSS is alive, certainly. But are people really slurping their feeds into their email tools? Or are you saying that nearly all RSS Readers fail because they act just like email clients: inbox, unread counts, folders, pressure to catch up?

    I’m a Google Reader guy, not because it is a great app, but because it is good enough. I’d love to have something like SharpReader back – it actually tried to show how articles were threaded together. I loved that.

    1. Hi Jack! Thanks for dropping by and for the feedback! What I was basically saying is that RSS feeds are alive and kicking, indeed, because most of the social networking sites where we usually hang out nowadays to grab our feeds nowadays use email as the driver of those notifications, so traditional RSS feed readers are leaving their way to those tools, like email, that don’t seem to be as much complex as some of those readers are. So, eventually, people decide to just stick around with those tools that do the trick for them.

      Which is also part of the second part of the blog post where I think that RSS feed readers failed to deliver new ways of providing us with the information we need as they all try to be pretty much like our inboxes, but fail, because of how complex they seem to be. Nothing to do with the habits themselves, but more with the technology itself.

      SharpReader surely was one of those exceptions that tried to do things different, but then again didn’t make it that far. And, instead, we all default it rather to GReader, which, as you say does not provide the user experience we would hope for, and email, which is what we are comfortable with all along…

      That’s why I wanted to put together this entry to add my two cents on the debate itself, as I think we are focusing on the wrong thing, as Dave Winer has nicely put together under “How to Reboot RSS”. I think he is on to something …

  3. Aside from reading the content in a feed reader, the value of RSS feeds is far more prevalent when you look at the consumption of the content by application entities (I.e mashups, etc). *That* seems more valuable to me as a developer than the way I use them in GReader. My .02 USD

  4. Great comprehensive post Luis.

    I abandoned my RSS Reader about a year ago, and only use it for back up…I still subscribe to sources and use it as a search engine.

    Rather than following blog sources, we are following people…in one way Twitter is just link blogging (delicious missed out on this…I always thought they should have enabled a tumblr type curated view of your personal bookmark database)

    Once you are subscribed to 100 or so blogs an RSS reader becomes unmanagable because posts are sorted by most recent…there is no way of knowing which one’s to skip without looking at them (there are plugins that filter by social activity on the web, so this helps).

    Twitter is a network where you discover people and the topics they post about…you can amass a network in no time at all. Whereas RSS Readers like Google Reader have to do their best with techniques like feed bundles and machine recommendations…otherwise it’s you alone on the web finding blogs in directories and blogrolls (nothing better than a blog you like recommending other blogs…a bit like my previous point on amassing a Twitter network in no time).

    RSS Readers are just consumption tools and not connection and interacting tools…you can’t comment from most RSS Readers, and connect with people.

    Twitter beats RSS Readers with breaking news and next to real time…if people want to know what’s happening right now, they don’t use an RSS Reader.
    Twitter is a network and if something is worth reading in a network it will surface again and again. Sometimes I ignore links (thinking maybe it’s worth a read, but I don’t have time so I’ll skip it), and then it surfaces a couple of more times, and I think OK maybe I will read it.

    The real difference is engagement, on Twitter not only is it a place to do reading (what we do with RSS Readers) and posting and commenting (what we do with blogging), but we can do other things like sharing links (like bookmarking), and discussing (like forums) and chatting (like IM) and private messaging (like email)…all via the one window and network. So it’s not just RSS Readers that are fallling victim, it’s also forums and perhaps a few other platforms of exchange…Twitter is certainly a disrupter.

    In the end RSS Readers have their value, but also their shortcomings…but people also leave them because Twitter handles reading information and lots of other stuff too like connecting…it’s hard being an RSS Reader vendor in a Twitter world.

    Like email, people want one place to do everthing, and Twitter has become that in a loose unstructured way.

    My dad would not start a blog or use an RSS Reader, but he’s on Facebook.

    People that blog also tweet, but people that tweet don’t necessarily blog.

    PS Just had a related thought.

    Lots of people including myself in the early days tried out every new RSS reader that came out, until I settled on Google Reader. Which means I subscribe to many of the same blogs multiple times, which inflates the subscribe numbers us bloggers think we have.
    Sure we may have 3000 subscribers but half of them may be from abandoned RSS readers, so how many fans do we really have.

    And I think the same thing is happening on Twitter. Currently I use filttr. I have made about 5 topic lists with about 20 sources in each list. And I filter each list by enabling it to display only those tweets that have links in them.

    2 things: I follow hundreds of people on Twitter, but only read about 100, and out of those 100 I’m only reading some of their stuff.

    So those people that have many Twitter fans, think again.

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