Opinion: "RSS: The Rise and Fall... and Rise Again" https://wilw.dev/blog/2021/02/03/rss-rise-fall-rise
Give elfeed a try. It's the ultimate scriptable RSS reader, and even if I stopped using Emacs, I couldn't imagine living w/o elfeed.
@wilw The fall of RSS coincides unsurprisingly with the fall of tooling for it. Part of it is sth. like Google collecting everything together into a platform and then killing it, part of it is social media conquering its space and then killing their RSS feeds, part of it is the "web design" fad where every "designer" wanting to control everything to a t /2
@wilw and finally part of it is the scramble for invasive analytics and ad terrorism, for which RSS or Atom are not really the best delivery mechanisms.
Today the major problem with RSS is still the lack of good software. No Android apps, paid or FOSS, and no desktop readers are up to par. They all have non-features that uselessly complicate it. They all either try to be make-believe magazines (Flipboard et al), or are incomplete (Liferea, Akregator). Self hosting TTRss or NewsBlur is 3/
@wilw ofc beyond most people.
IMHO that RSS stuck around despite all this hostility and indifference is telling. It's very useful and everybody would use it iff the publishers weren't actively hindering it. Esp. silos striving to close every hole in the walls of their barren gardens.
(BTW I got my toot numbers wrong, sorry about that, this is 3/3 actually...). 4/4
@kev Thank you! I actually meant to start writing about something completely different tonight but I think my mind got sidetracked onto all of this as I started typing.
Thanks for reading 😊
@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 (https://quanta.wiki) 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.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
@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)
@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 @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 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.
@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
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.
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.
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 ipsec.pl 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.
Fosstodon is an English speaking Mastodon instance that is open to anyone who is interested in technology; particularly free & open source software.