@wilw The reason Google tried to kill off RSS is because they consider any kind of "index, directory, or data structure that makes the web organized and easier to access a thread to their business model.

Google wants to be the only gateway into the information, and so RSS had only downside risk for them.

Now, in 2021, everyone should be using RSS as much as possible to help eliminate dependency on BigTech, and some day even create a fully semantic web.

@WClayFerguson Thanks for reading. And yes, I completely agree. Any mechanism whereby someone can find/discover information *without* Google is detrimental to their business, so I guess that makes sense (in a horrible way).

And yep - let's get people using RSS (or just any decentralised process for aggregation really). The key is to keep the web owned by everyone 👍

@wilw In the web platform I wrote ( it's a built in feature to every piece of content that not only does it have a unique URL, but it has a format for that URL that will pull up a reverse-chron RSS "rendering" of that node. So you can theoretically 'subscribe' to any paragraph, document, etc.

It's a revolutionary platform, imo, if I can self-promote for a sec. :)

@WClayFerguson Wow, nice! Thanks for sharing. That sounds pretty unique, being able to specifically (and publicly) address individual components of a node (paragraphs, etc.). Will check it out.

@wilw Here's a 'curated' feed, where I have a 'hand' picked set of Fediverse accounts that it merges into a feed, and it's similar to treating ActivityPub outboxes like an RSS feed kinda.

That link to me is a better 'experience' than Mastodon, just for killin' some time.

@WClayFerguson @wilw i don’t know if i agree with your premise but i agree with your conclusion. we should also push for more and better things than RSS because we can do better than that.

i don’t think google set out to kill RSS on purpose. if anyone did that it was twitter and facebook. google had google reader, and killing off google reader could only have been a blow to RSS if everyone was dependent on the one reader.

@zens @wilw Having Google Reader at all promoted RSS adoption, and that enabled people to easily consume RSS without needing to use Google.

It was very clearly in Google's interest to shut it down. It made people need Google LESS not more. RSS gives everybody a choice of what reader to use, and Google is primarily a surveillance company, so they want people to have no option but to use them.

@WClayFerguson @wilw okay but rhen wouldn’t it make sense to own whateever the competiton is instead of shutting it down? if it was so easy to just switxh to a different RSS reader, why was killing google’s reader such a blow? i don’t think they killed it because it was a threat, i think it’s exactly the reason they gave: they couldn’t work out how to monetise it.

@WClayFerguson @wilw if rss was a threat to google, none of what google did should have been able to stop it

@zens @WClayFerguson That's true. Though I wonder if some people equated RSS == Reader and so when that disappeared they tried to find alternatives. Either way, totally agree: FB/Twitter/etc. were the nail in he coffin at that point

@wilw @WClayFerguson rss in general had a, well, marketing problem? as obvious as its benefits are to nerds,, it’s much harderto explain to someone who doesn’t know and isn’t interested in learning what xml is

@zens For sure. I guess that's the trouble with nice, open standards (like RSS): the system should market itself on those qualities alone (and tech people would get that). But big corp can afford teams of marketers who know exactly how to exploit human pyschology to drive traffic back to them.

@zens @wilw I doubt most people using Mastodon know what JSON is, or WebFinger, or ActivityPub, but those are the technologies enabling it, and are open source and available to everyone.

Nobody is saying end-users need to learn XML/RSS, but what we're saying is that RSS is great because of it's simplicity. It's what caused Podcasting to become popular after all.

How do you think Spotify feels about Podcasting/RSS? lol. Same exact thing going on there.

@WClayFerguson @wilw nobody is telling people to use activitypub. we tell them to use mastodon.

my point is, we maybe shouldn’t be telling people to “use RSS” either

@WClayFerguson @wilw i meam, it obviously depends on the audience, but rss badges that link to code garbage was maybe not the best thing

@zens @WClayFerguson If I tap a link to an RSS feed on my phone it automatically opens up my reader app (which removes the whole scary XML/under the hood bit). However how do we make people aware of it in the first place - this is part of the problem. "Default" apps would potentially solve this part, but then of course re-introduce the other problems we're trying to fix around choice/control/decentralisation 🤯

@wilw @zens @WClayFerguson annoyingly, some sites don't make their RSS feed links visible anymore these days, and some feed readers can't be given a site URL and find the feed URLs on their own. Unless I'm missing something?

(Tested with Android and NewsBlur. Waiting to have enough time to work on my feed parser project to fix this)

@michel_slm @wilw @WClayFerguson the discovery protocol is a bit adhoc and poorly understood. there’s supposed to be a link rel=alternate tag in the page header for agents ro discover a feed. feed readers just need to compete on this better

@wilw @WClayFerguson there is a very simple solution to that particular problem that most authors, for some reason are simply unaware of. an xml file can link to a css file. this works in most (all?) browsers. so the feed link can be something that looks like a normal web page, with the info on there, and perhaps promotions for various reader apps.

@wilw @WClayFerguson in fact this was always possible but for some reason rss pioneers just desperately wanted to shoot themselves in the foot with this.

@zens @WClayFerguson oh that’s interesting, I hadn’t even thought of that. The page itself could contain instructions on what to do

@wilw @zens Personally as some one who was around when XML was first popularized (1990ish) I'm shocked that now 30yrs later we haven't replaced most text editors with some form of hierarchical text editor. Nearly ever *document* benefits from having structure, and that's one of the principles in Quanta, which is that every piece of content can contain "sub-content" under it.

@wilw @zens The fact that people get scary XML when they click an RSS link nowadays (depending on setup of course) is exactly what Google wanted. They could have easily made their browser recognize a mime type or whatever and have a plugin of some kind render it, but like I said, they wanted to destroy it, because they have nothing to gain by that.

It's almost a Semantic Web issue where the web just needs a "Type System" where types can have registered plugins to handle them.

@WClayFerguson @wilw google wanted to destroy RSS because they didn’t expend resources and time to support it? that’s a bit of a stretch. i’ve got a format called “shmozon” i invented. is google trying to destroy it because chrome doesn’t natively render it?

@zens @wilw If shmonoz had the level of adoption and power RSS had, yes Google would want to kill it.

@WClayFerguson @wilw that’s *sigh* , it doesn’t follow from what i wrote.

@zens @wilw But why argue about why Google did something? They did do it. They stopped support for RSS. Clearly they weren't TRYING to help it. lol. I judge them by their actions. I don't pretend to read minds, but I read actions.

@WClayFerguson @wilw an alternative reading is that RSS just sucks and they stopped throwing in good money after bad. people and corporations aren’t required to support bad ideas, and their failure to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into it isn’t evidence they want to kill it.

@WClayFerguson @wilw now, i am not saying RSS is a bad idea. i am saying that not wanting to spend money on it is not evidence of malice

@zens @wilw RSS is a standard for sharing data that eliminates the middle-man. So you're right, it had no 'market value' to Google. We agree on that part.

@WClayFerguson @wilw i like RSS. google killing reader was a shame. the evidence that google actively wanted to kill RSS because it was a “threat” just isn’t compelling. rss fizzled out on its own because it just isn’t a very compelling idea on its own. on the other hand, it has been extremely successful and never died, as the underlying protocol of itunes and podcasts. my apple tv uses en extended rss for all of its menus.


Let's just reword it that Google supported RSS in browsers until it acquired popular RSS aggregators, and then pulled the plug on RSS in browser. I remember very well how Feedburner was promoted among webmasters as an exciting and convenient way of making your feed popular, which of course was the way for them to get both sides hooked up and break any direct relationship between users and webmasters.

@WClayFerguson @wilw

@kravietz @WClayFerguson @wilw I am not sure what in-browser rss support chrome supposedly pulled. I certainly don’t remember it supporting rss any better than it does now

@kravietz @WClayFerguson @wilw i also remember having a desktop feed reader being very annoying and inefficient. maybe it’s just me subscribing to too many feeds, but seperately downloading rss files takes a long time i’d rather happen somewhere else. and i guess that’s how cloud services become popular

@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw

That's long time ago so my memories are vague, but at some point web browsers had this RSS aggregation feature built-in.

You basically clicked this RSS icon on a website and browser would pull updates in the background for you periodically. In Firefox that was called Live Bookmarks and was removed in 2018 "because nobody used it" as they explained.

@kravietz @WClayFerguson @wilw so, you’re saying google somehow had the ability to pull rss features from firefox?

@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw

I don't think they did that directly, although Google has a financial leverage on Mozilla (default search engine payments).

It was sufficient to do what they usually do - acquire Feedburner, then quietly make Live Bookmarks obsolete by promoting Google Reader while making LB a "hardcore nerd-only feature", and then making Google Reader obsolete, after it was integrated into Google News wrapped by algorithmic and paid display.

@kravietz @WClayFerguson @wilw it sucks but it’s a conspiracy theory. what makes you thonk it was a deliberate strategy?

@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw

It's not a conspiracy, it's a natural business strategy to increase your market share, as explained by Clay before:

Also, for the sake of clarity, Google did not *kill RSS* as a technical mechanism - websites still publish RSS but it's only used by search engines. Google just killed any *direct* relationship between website feeds and their users and replaced it with its paid & algorithmic aggregation model.

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@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw

You could also run your own RSS aggregator on your website, and most CMS supported this out of the box - I ran a popular Polish-language infosec blog at back then, and had an aggregator that pulled many other infosec websites in Polish, and subscribed to its aggregated RSS.

At some point there was a lot of hype around FeedBurner and literally every "how to become a webmaster with X" tutorial recommended it just as they recommend GA or Cloudflare today.

@WClayFerguson @wilw @zens

It melt your mind when you begin to think about how much damage to the clarity of programs and computers that capitalism has done

@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw Personally, I consider that the fault of the webbrowser. Not the website.

To hide the XML away from end-users we need *some* help from the browser. They used to better about this. Some (Safari) still are.

@alcinnz @WClayFerguson @wilw no, safari sucks at it. and people need to put stylesheets with their feeds. the browsers follow the standards just fine

@alcinnz @WClayFerguson @wilw there’s only so much a browser can do if the web author has half assed their rss implementation

@zens @WClayFerguson @wilw I was more thinking browsers should implement the autodiscovery specs & at least offer to dispatch RSS/Atom links to your feedreader. Certainly they shouldn't display them as XML.

Maybe I should've actually tested on Safari before I made that comment. I know they used to, and I've read their "shared links" supports webfeeds. Which would be great for getting family into it! But I don't know what I'm talking about.

@alcinnz @WClayFerguson @wilw you’re right- safari *used* to support rss pretty well. but now the support is just- not removed- but actually just broken from neglect. it’s still there and just broken.

@alcinnz @zens @wilw I mean the larger point here is not that RSS is broken, but that "The Web" is broken. We need a semantic web, where there are data types and plugins that know how to handle them. I mean we're kinda there but not fully.

@WClayFerguson @alcinnz @wilw personally i believe the “semantic web” is conceptually flawed and doesn’t need a capitalism to sabotage it. but that’s a rant for another day.

@WClayFerguson @alcinnz @wilw my point is, that while capitalist forces and organisations do weild a lot of power over attention and resources and what effort goes into, fundamentally what they don’t have control over is whether an idea can stand or fall on its own merits- and what anything that succeeds outside of capitalism has in common is in accounting realistically for what a wide diversity of humans need, and asking for realistic investment in return

@WClayFerguson @alcinnz @wilw and by “realistic investment” i don’t mean money- i mean like, i am bot going to go compuling linux kernels to avoid being accused of capitalist shilling

@WClayFerguson @alcinnz @wilw the skills and hardware for being able to participate in the linux are so specific to a level of privilege, and the community is not at all welcoming or friendly, including those that claim it is- because it’s also in the culture to cultishly avoid knowing what’s unfriendly about the community or the software

@zens @alcinnz @wilw Luckily money isn't the *only* thing that drives innovation in sofware. Developers are a unique breed of cat because a lot of us just want to "create" and to hell with having a business model.

I think that's how Linux got started, and I've been working on Quanta for 10 years. :)

@WClayFerguson @zens @wilw You know what I do in my browser dev?

I make sure that when you try to open a link your system doesn't yet understand, I recommend compatible apps from your package manager for you to install.

I don't know how easy that is to implement on the proprietary desktops, but there's quite a nice standard "AppStream" used by most the Linux/BSD ones.

@alcinnz @zens @wilw Here's my admittedly awkward way of subscribing to an RSS Feed...

I say 'awkward' because currently the user has to jack around with a "Node Type". Could be made simpler.

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