This is a bit old - you may or may not notice the date on this post but it's over a year old. That doesn't mean it's not useful but we all know how fast things chance on the web so there's a chance that techniques and technologies described here could be a little dated.

RSS is criminally under used but it won’t die with Google Reader or social media

I’ve been a long time Google Reader user and I’ve realised that I’ve never really looked much further. I started using it many moons ago and it’s always worked and done what I want so I’ve never looked at anything else.
But Reader is being killed off by Google in July and many people are predicting a decline in RSS usage because of it, I can’t really see that happening. It most certainly won’t be replaced by social media.

I think the reason a number of people think of RSS dying off is that many other services leveraged Reader’s API to manage various RSS related things – any of these services serious about their continued running will find alternatives either of their own or another third party. Underneath the reader API all of the information from the RSS feeds is still there so they haven’t whilst they’ve lost a fundamental tool they haven’t lost the foundations on which that tool was built.

Having utilised RSS feeds for many years to keep up to date with sites – I often lose track of those sites that don’t provide an RSS feed – I’m amazed that more people don’t utilise an RSS reader. I watch my wife who keeps up with her favourite web sites by visiting them and seeing if there’s anything new on there, I imagine that’s a way many people keep up to date with their favourite sites. They’d probably be amazed that they could have updates delivered to them without having to check all the time. They just don’t realise RSS is there, and Reader was a bit of a help here being something from a company everyone is familiar with.

Apparently many people use social media such as Twitter and Facebook as a replacement, and I just can’t get my head around this. I understand the argument that following websites on these services you get all their updates but the practicalities just make it difficult – how do you easily know what you’ve already read? How do you keep track of older posts and tweets? It just isn’t as easy as using a decent RSS reader. And if you don’t follow sites and just rely on your friends then you’re missing out hugely, I still read a newspaper and a massive part of the value in it is finding news and stories that I would otherwise never come across. Yes you’re RSS list may be curated by you but my lists are full of things I’d miss in my twitter and facebook streams.

I know some despair at the possibility of unread guilt, that big number of articles you’ve left unread. Whilst I offload plenty of stuff to pocket nowadays for offline reading I maintain a list of blogs who’s news is of passing interest so after a bit of time away I can simply remove them from the unread count with a couple of clicks.

I think so many sites and especially blogging platforms still use RSS for many different reasons that I can’t see it dying off anytime soon and I’d be hugely disappointed if it did. But Reader is going so I’ve started to give Feedly a go, and so far it’s looking pretty good.