Oh God Not This Again
Every now and again there’s a thing about the tragedy of RSS. Ugh.
I want to make a few points.
One is that, as Greg Reinacker once said, RSS is plumbing.
Another is that millions of mainstream users rely on it — for podcasting, especially, but also because it powers other things that they use. They don’t know that there’s RSS under the hood, and that’s totally fine.
Another is that it’s not necessary for RSS readers to become mass-market, mainstream apps. I’m sure I never said they would be, and I don’t remember anyone else from the early days of RSS saying they would be, either.
It’s totally fine if RSS readers are just used by journalists, bloggers, researchers, and people who like to read. Yes! It’s a-okay.
But note that everyone who uses Twitter and whatever else, and who follows those people, are benefiting indirectly from RSS. RSS is, often, where the links come from in the first place before they show up on social networks.
In a nutshell: judging RSS itself because RSS readers are not mainstream is to miss everything that RSS does. And judging RSS readers for not being mainstream is to judge them against expectations set by some hype artists more than a decade ago — but not by me or anybody else actually doing the work.
I don’t expect to see RSS readers running on every Mac and iOS device. This does not make it a failure.
It’s 2018, and I think by now we’re allowed to have things that some people like, but that not everybody uses.
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From 2011: What we talk about when we talk about RSS
From 2013: Why I love RSS and You Do Too
From 2018: Some Hope