Reports of RSS/Atom’s death are greatly exaggerated

I’m not old, but I remember when people said “my web log.” That then became “blog.”1

I subscribe via a feed reader2 to a collection of individual blogs, and a few aggregators (but only the top posts of the week).

This strikes a good balance of interesting reads (mostly technology and programming related), and keeping my finger on the pulse of what the tech world is excited about (big data, IoT, NoSQL, cloud, VR, crypto, AI, insert trend du jour here).

It also means I only have about 30 or so new posts per day appearing in my feed, and they can be flicked through in a few minutes. I’ll bookmark ones that sound interesting to read for when I’m at home and sitting comfortably. “Screen time” and FOMO are not problems for me.3 I can also setup filters for bullshit content mill authors.4

However, about once a fortnight–on my RSS feed–I regularly see a post debating why RSS has died, or why it’s making a comeback. There’s usually related discussion about adoption, the user experience, or corporate interests (Google Reader, or $popular_newspaper).5

For people who digest things over a course of days or weeks, rather than doom scrolling and posting their knee-jerk reactions, the situation for a very broad set of people is that RSS/Atom is in the background doing what it’s supposed to. No VC-backed endless growth, or decline.

Feeds continue to serve their modest purpose.

For people lamenting the death of Google Reader, or that Mozilla dropped the built-in feed icon and reader from Firefox: don’t. Be thankful that the Great Eye of Business has lost interest in RSS and does not want to meddle in it anymore.

  1. Which I thought was “so lame” at the time. But I’ve grown up since then. A little bit.↩︎

  2. I get my other news from more traditional sources in dead tree format. And I don’t use Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Threads, or other drugs. According to The Economist, people are no longer posting or getting their news from social networks anyway; it’s all happening in private chat groups.↩︎

  3. Partly thanks to Musk completely bungling Twitter, which was already on thin ice for me. I (along with many others) migrated to Mastodon, and then lost interest in any kind of “microblogging” at all. Other people have just deleted their accounts. Similar to Reddit, really. Tech communites have largely moved to Discourse.↩︎

  4. Such as Substack, Medium, etc. For future readers who might not know what these platforms were, they’re just another type of blogging service, but are extremely aggressive at bothering you to “sign up to my newsletter” (literally–not a joke), and the posts are almost all inflammatory, self-promotion, or attempts to direct you to a product or service.↩︎

  5. You’ll see a similar pattern of discussion about email, another distributed internet standard. Unfortunately Big Business is presently a spectre looming over email.↩︎