An acquaintance of mine recently opined on his blog about whether RSS is dead. I find that I think clearer about this when I look at it not as a single question, but a few related ones.
1. Is RSS continued to be made available on the internet on a broad scale?
While I don’t know how exactly how the data is collected – and the trends have some kinks I can’t explain – this result shows that RSS are still made available for the larger sites. The vertical axis represents percentage of large sites where RSS link can be found on the landing page.
If anything, a larger percentage of the samples offered RSS now compared to half a year ago. An explanation of this is probably that it does not cost a lot of additional effort. Most CMS out there already support generation of RSS, and the peoples who develop CMS and web frameworks would be over-represented by RSS users. So I think this trend will continue to hold.
2. Are “old usage” of RSS decreasing?
Here, I am talking about subscribing to feeds and read them in feed reader. And this is probably where people are debating in most of the “Is RSS dead?” conversation out there.
I suspect the old usage is decreasing, as I can’t imagine there are more peoples starting to use Google Reader than those who stopped checking their feed. But I can’t find data to determine the rate, so I’ll leave it at this. Because…
These conversation are futile. There are only 2 camps, those that used to use feed readers and has stopped, and those who had and still use feed readers. Neither of them represents the average internet user, and trying to generalize from their personal experience is a waste of time.
Feed readers will not become mainstream, but it was never mainstream to begin with. Stop bickering about it. If it still works for you, use it. If you now prefer twitter or pretty news reader like pulse, go for it. Just stop arguing so passionately about it. Honestly, it makes us all look pathetic.
3. Are there significant new usages for RSS?
Engineers are generally smart peoples. Or at least pragmatic. Since there are a lot of RSS feeds made available, someone will recognize when these feeds can be made useful. And the general users do not need to know or care that RSS is used in the background or what the orange logo is, in the same way they don’t care how TCP/IP or the cellular network works.Using it in news reader like pulse or flipboard is only the most obvious ones. Someone will still make some money with technologies or products that make use of RSS, just like with any other well established technology.
For full transparency, I am from the camp that still use feed readers, because it satisfies the pattern of my information needs. Many of the feed sources now offer apps on android, for example, but I prefer them centralized in Google Reader.
From below’s trend provided by Google Reader: In about 5 years, I read 246,624 item, or about 4,000 items per month. In the last 30 days, I’ve read 3,137 items. Crude adjustment for the fact that 5 years ago I was a student, and now I have full time job, wife and kid. I would say I am using it about as much as in 2005. (when I switched over from Bloglines)
Google Reader is still actively developed on the web, and the new android app is very good. So I still feel warm and fuzzy about it.
Some useful things RSS allows me to do:
- subscribe to only LifeHacker posts tagged with ‘android’
- be notified of new banking regulations
- knows when new episodes of The Big Bang Theory comes out
- see new jobs posted on JobsDB which contain the keyword ‘derivatives’
- see when new comic books come out
- keep track of updates of softwares I use on desktop, since not all of them will check for updates automatically
- keep track of stuffs I don’t want to miss, even if I see it a few days late. I’m not a blogger anymore, so the really important stuffs are still important to me even if it’s a few days old.