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RSS is Not Dead Yet

Steve Gillmor, of Techcrunch, has made some waves with a recent blog post titled Rest in Peace, RSS, in which he argues that nobody uses RSS anymore because Twitter is much more effective. Here’s a quote:

Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed – whatever they grew from, they morphed into a realtime CMS for the emerging media. Twitter, not RSS, became the early warning system for new content. Facebook, not RSS, became the social Rolodex for events, casual introductions to RSS’ lifeblood, the people behind the feeds. FriendFeed, not RSS, captured the commentsphere. RSS got locked out of its own party.

I think he’s got a point here, in that many of these tools, when bundled together, can make a pretty effective communication platform. (Too bad that wasn’t the focus of his post.) But will that kill RSS? No, I don’t think so. Twitter may be a great platform for sending and receiving alerts, but you still have to click a link to go read whatever news or article you’re being alerted about. There’s only 140 characters to work with here, and if we get to the point where that’s sufficient for communicating anything and everything then we have much bigger problems then a platform dispute. Of course, RSS readers still haven’t exactly hit the mainstream- a minority of my friends actually use them. But RSS is still a really great format for delivering information. Perhaps we’re still just waiting for the best application to meet us all halfway- using RSS to deliver full content just as effectively as Google Reader does, but also allowing microblogging as a means of discussing and disseminating info. We’ll see…

As for this portion of Gillmor’s post, I have no idea what he’s talking about (I won’t comment on his writing quality- there’s plenty of that kind of ripping in the comment stream):

Today, RSS is a shell of its former self, casually subsumed as the transport for 140+ content into the social stream. There, RSS items are fed into aggregators and husked for their behavioral signals, packaged as Tweets and sold for pennies on the whuffie dollar. The mainstream media, once cowed by the fulltexters, now masquerades as blog sites and competes for shortened URLs alongside the bloggers they deride under their breath.

Some of the comments attached to this post are actually pretty funny, extreme, etc. but the following two make decent points:

Sash – May 6th, 2009 at 3:30 am PDT
…to think that Steve is not clued up enough to realize the only way to effectively track keywords on twitter is through RSS is unbelievable. i guess he just sits in front of his TweetDeck and watches the feed full time, haha !

or

Farnham – May 6th, 2009 at 6:42 am PDT
Maybe separate client RSS Readers are dead, or unnecessary, since RSS is part of all browsers and most portals, but RSS dead? Might as well say HTML is dead. Not used as standalone much, but RSS and HTML and XML are some of the bones needed to keep the sexier stuff (and fluff) from collapsing on the floor as a glob of amorphous, gelatinous goop. Flame rating – 5

Sash is right. Twitter relies on RSS, too; it can’t exactly be an RSS killer. Farnham finishes off this point with some more technical reasons, and also points out that in typical Techcrunch fashion, this post was more bait than anything else.

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