Twitter Killed RSS. Period.

March 27, 2013 8:22 am

There, we said it. Marco Arment wrote an article today, explaining how the majority of folks ended up using RSS the wrong way – he says the way it must have been used, was to get updates from infrequently updated sites. Turns out, this is just another way of saying ‘If the news is important, it will reach me. For things that I find interesting but not many others might, I will subscribe to their RSS feed’.

While we agree that this is the current state of affairs, it is important to remember that this reduced role for RSS is new. This was not the case in the pre-twitter (should we say non real-time?) days. RSS was simple but magical: you saw something that you wanted to ‘follow’ or ‘keep track of’ – you looked for that orange button and clicked on it. You could be sure that you wouldn’t ‘miss’ any updates, and you did not have to bookmark a ton of things. Really Simple Subscription.

Then one fine day in 2006, Jack Dorsey sent out this: “”just setting up my twttr” to a group of ‘followers’. It took some time for Twitter to get positioned as the pillar of the real-time revolution, but when it did, it did it right. So right, that the term ‘breaking news’ is now synonymous with ‘Twitter’. But it had an interesting side-effect – the kind of asynchronous ‘Follower’ model was a neat replacement for things like Email updates and RSS, because in essence, that is exactly what they were: an asynchronous way to follow interesting things.

In the new world, Marco’s argument: “Without RSS readers, the long tail would be cut off. The rich would get richer: only the big-name sites get regular readership without RSS, so the smaller sites would only get scraps of occasional Twitter links from the few people who remember to check them regularly, and that number would dwindle.” – sounds like an effort to save a dying technology by citing a solid use case for its existence. However, we think that the use case is weak, because the twitter crowd is going to say “oh the whole long tail thing? it’s just a hashtag” and then the Twitter API will take care of the rest.

Twitter Killed RSS. Period.

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