Twitter & RSS

The theory behind RSS has roots from earlier days of the internet (~1995); the copyright was established just a few hundred feet from my freshman year dormroom right as I was beginning my studies at Harvard.

I remember the simplicity of the technology striking me, and brainstorming ways to capitalize on it. I played around with a few RSS readers in college but ultimately abandoned them. That’s not to say that RSS didn’t catch a solid following– it did, but there wasn’t ever really a mass-market RSS reader, considering all of the sites that were offering up RSS updates.

So why didn’t RSS catch on with the masses, the non-internet non-geek majority?

Creating RSS feeds wasn’t idiot proof.

There wasn’t (to my knowledge) a mass-market foolproof way to create RSS feeds for every website. I’m not sure what the adoption and implementation of feeds was. I’m too lazy to do the research now, but I’d guess RSS feeds existed in roughly 2-5% of total available websites, and perhaps 30-50% of the top trafficked sites. The irony is that the most trafficked sites didn’t really need to offer RSS feeds. Their users were visiting the site most days anyways.

I can’t remember the sites I frequented before 2004. Facebook was launched in early 2004. Social networking allowed everyone to essentially have a website. Suddently, I could sign into facebook everyday and check out new shit. It became my new content consumption hub.

But facebook isn’t really a replacement for RSS. There are still sites that I frequent and want to be kept up-to-date with the new activity.

Enter Twitter.

Twitter was like RFSS. Really fucking simple syndication. Twitter solved the implementation issue. I didn’t even need a website to post things. I didn’t need a CMS, I didn’t need to figure out how to get people to subscribe to my feed to let them know of happenings. I could have a brand, I could post some really, really simple updates and let people know about what was happening. And it didn’t stop at businesses. I could follow friends, celebrities, businesses, politicians.

So yes, RSS is probably dead now. Twitter doesn’t have yet the ability to post more complex metadata, to embed videos, pictures and other engaging content directly into my feed. But I’m sure they’ll get there.

I will miss RSS.

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