Every 2-3 months, the future of RSS gets debated feverously and simultaneously on a few blogs. The spark that fuels the fire has always been Twitter and an intricately related subject: the future of RSS readers.
When reading the comments on these blogs, I noticed that several people were still confusing RSS (the transport/publish method) with RSS Readers (the human readable method). And to add to the confusion, Twitter is simultaneously a reader, a publishing platform and has an RSS out.
Yes, there is a problem with RSS readers. Aside from Feedly and Google Reader, RSS readers have not innovated in useful ways. So, I went to my iPhone and downloaded a number of new RSS readers and topical streamers that claimed to contain innovation. My assessment: #fail.
Fact is that most RSS Readers don’t offer a very compelling user experience, unless you’re a dedicated researcher:
1) Feed management is time-consuming, especially when you’re into the hundreds of feeds.
2) RSS readers have very poor filtering and curation capabilities (although Google Reader has social filtering now).
3) RSS readers offer mediocre ways to search or archive content.
4) You cannot re-publish / social share content from RSS readers (except for Google Reader & Feedly).
That said, the future of RSS is bright because what matters now is “what you do with RSS” from a processing point of view, not just as a collection exercise. Hint: that’s what we have been focused on doing at Eqentia where we continuously process and analyze content from thousands of RSS feeds.
Amidst this optimism, there’s a potential threat from Twitter. For some users, Twitter has replaced reading RSS via an RSS reader. But this trend is offset by another segment of users who are flocking to topical readers where RSS is often part of the plumbing.
Will Twitter-published content totally usurp RSS-published content one day? That’s a difficult question to answer, although some publishing platforms are directly pushing content to Twitter without using RSS, e.g. WordPress and Tumblr recently. It would be tragic if websites published to Twitter only and not to RSS, but as long as they are publishing to both,- RSS is safe.
Comparing RSS to Twitter, RSS transports more content than Twitter, but Twitter contains attention-data. Both RSS and Twitter need to go to the source URL to extract more meaning about the content, but users need more than just re-tweet data to get a 360 view on social media engagement. Problem is- today, not all content is surfaced on Twitter. Therefore Twitter is a complementary channel, not a replacement to the Web. Plus, it’s still quite a bit messy and noisy.
To follow the future of RSS in a very comprehensive manner, this Eqentia portal has an archive of 2,000 articles on that topic,- all done via RSS processing, and without letting the user lift a finger on RSS (also on Twitter here).
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