On RSS and the “dying” of Really Simple Syndication

I love RSS. I love my Google Reader. I use it religiously. I subscribe to way too many blogs and websites, because I can. I can add all the subscriptions I want, quickly scan my feed to see what piques my interest, and read as much or as little as I want and “mark all as read” as necessary. I visit a lot of sites and discover many new ones as a result.

I star entries frequently (especially recipes that I want to try), and also search my feeds for certain topics and ingredients (which I can do so, easily, because I categorize my feeds). I find this infinitely easier than bookmarking, especially since I’m dealing with a high number of sites and individual entries.

There have been a whole mess of articles lately about how RSS is “dying,” Facebook and Twitter are “killing” RSS, etc. The latest in a long string comes via TechCrunch, and the writers/editors recently got into an “RSS War” on Twitter with Dave Winer, who apparently pioneered the development of RSS.

As Jeffrey pointed out to me, the implementation and use of RSS is simple enough (no pun intended) that it won’t necessarily just go away. And pretty much all publishing software (such as WordPress) will provide feeds automatically, so the option will always be there. So hopefully there’s no need to really fear a dramatic death of RSS, the day when all feed readers just stop existing (like birds falling out of the sky).

What bothers me the most about all this is how this decline in RSS use will affect the design of RSS entries. Website developers have the option to configure RSS so that the content displays a certain way when a new entry pops up in a reader. Sometimes the entire post is displayed, so the user can read all the content at once; and sometimes the post is truncated, so only some of the content is posted and the user has to click through to the site to get the rest of the information.

I have no problem with truncated RSS posts, especially when so many sites rely on page views for a number of reasons. I do have a problem when truncated posts look like crap and fail to give the user anything useful.

I subscribe to some SF Weekly blogs, but this bugs me:

SF Foodie RSS

Just a sentence or two more would provide the user with a more comprehensive idea of what the post is about and encourage a more worthwhile reading experience.

On the contrary, Smitten Kitchen utilizes a really good RSS compromise by displaying a few paragraphs and photos in each entry, before requiring the user to click through to the actual site to see the actual recipe:

Smitten Kitchen RSS

Overall, I just hope that people continue to do the basic development work for RSS, despite the fact that user numbers are down. There’s also reason to believe that RSS will make a comeback, especially if Facebook and Twitter feeds become too saturated. Who knows?

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