RSS Feeds still alive?

Tonight I was in a conversation with a set of not-so-techie friends and suddenly one of those friends proclaimed her admiration for RSS feeds! That was quite shocking to me, as multiple people out there have been proclaiming RSS as a “dead medium” for some time now (e.g. [1], [2]), and saying that something more like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are better ways of navigating and sharing articles.

There are multiple things against RSS:

1) It’s focused on recency and not on relevance. That makes it very hard to use for things that generate too many articles or many updates to articles, such as some news agencies.

2) It keeps people away from ads, which is what allows thos companies to post the articles to begin with. So, in order for them to make you go to their website, they end up posting only a small part of the article and hope you will click through and see the full article and the full set of ads. Some sites do it almost right, such as Engadget. But some are just unusable, such as Estadao.

3) You lose all formatting and “metadata” that enriches your experience trying to read articles. For example, if you go to the NY Times website and read an article there, you will see that at the end of the article it will provide you with recommendations of related articles. Also you don’t see comments and you can’t easily enrich the article with discussions.

4) It’s actually not very easy to use. Some websites have multiple RSS feeds to choose from and many RSS readers are very clunky to add new feeds.

So seeing that there are people out there that are not deeply into tech and use RSS religiously and happily is quite strange. Even Google that has one of the most popular Web-based RSS readers (Google Reader) is giving hints to be moving away from it, and focusing more on Google+ that gives you the possibility of commenting, aggregating to the top the most “interesting” articles (as defined by your circles) and in the end just forwards you to the content provider’s website where you can see all the ads and features that they provide with the article.

What about me? Well, I still use Google Reader. From time to time I do go for a week or two without opening it, but it’s not that I find a different source for my news – it’s just that I don’t have time to read anything. I did try to use Twitter for it, but I just don’t follow enough people, and don’t spend enough time tracking links (the problem with Twitter is the firehose effect – you either keep constantly up-to-date with what is going on, or you miss a lot of interesting things).

Facebook never really worked for me. Yes, I do have quite a few good friends there that share interesting articles, but most of the time all I see is my other friends talking about their lives. It’s interesting, but doesn’t really give me enough news coverage. And Google+? Well, I just haven’t invested any time there at all. I still have way too few friends there, and even fewer that post anything.

So, do I think RSS is going to die? Yes! I just don’t yet know what is going to replace it.

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