Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why RSS Matters

With the discontinuation of Google Reader have come many proclamations of the death of RSS. Even though I use the My Yahoo page as my RSS feed, I’ve been bothered by the insinuation that RSS is dying, but haven’t really been able to put my finger on it. Luckily, io9 does a good job of summarizing the issue at stake: RSS gave the consumer the power to dis-aggregate content from a content provider, and as it fades away, reading habits are being controlled again by corporations.  A few quotes are in order. First, an explanation of why RSS was so appealing:
[RSS readers] ...let you take information from everywhere and organize it however you like. Your Wired stories were filed in the same place as your Entertainment Weekly stories. Everything was mixed together in an information jumble. Of course it was your information jumble, but it was still often confusing, and required a modicum of technical proficiency to organize and cultivate.
See I like this jumble! Using RSS was like making a mix tape of all of your favorite content sources  saving you the time of having to go to multiple websites – everything you wanted was in one place. Losing this capability is a problem because
"We are returning to a world where what you read online comes to you in silos. Instead of a feed reader, you can get an app that organizes your app subscriptions on a nice digital bookshelf where they look just like a bunch of paper magazines in a bookstore. But unlike an RSS reader, this app doesn't ever mix the content of these magazines up into a single stream. It keeps them separate. You have to jump out of one app and into another to read the next magazine on your shelf.
We are also moving toward a reading style that requires you to visit a specific site in order to read, instead of pulling all the articles you want into one piece of software. You go out into Tumblr and Facebook. You don't aggregate all your favorite Tumblrs and magazine articles into, one, unified reader. Everything is separate and out there, in the cloud."
 This is sad for a number of reasons, but the strongest reason against this method of reading is that you concede power in what you see to the corporations that generate that content. I like to believe that content is content regardless of its context, while Facebook and company want control (and monetize) the way in which you consume content, adding “value” in the form of targeted ads, etc.

The good news is that many companies have announced efforts to replicate Google Reader’s RSS API so that this method of reading will not die out. For me, My Yahoo tends to work okay, although I’m finding more and more RSS feeds simply don’t work within it, so I imagine I’ll be moving on sometime soon. Here’s hoping that the RSS model continues to thrive in the years to come!

1 comment:

eric said...

i'm in a near panic about this, to be honest. the thing about whatever platform you use to aggregate your RSS feeds is exactly as you have proclaimed... it's a personal mix-tape. feedDemon, which i use on my PC, allows me to aggregate my news feeds, my blog feeds, my running feeds, my music feeds (etc.). same thing with reeder on my phone.

i've heard feedly has already started the API replication process, so i'm scrambling to get things setup there. hope it is the same or similar user experience.

news and/or information in general just wouldn't be the same without this type of service!!