This post originally started as me trying to figure out what application I was going to use to replace Google Reader. The answer to that question is really simple for now:
I’m going to use Feedly, and wait to see what Digg comes out with.
If that’s all you need is a recommendation, have a blast with Feedly.
After doing some research, I have a bigger question in my mind. What’s going on with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology in general? Let’s look at a few facts:
- Google Reader to shut down on July 1st
- Google pull the RSS extension from the Chrome store
- Twitter has removed all public facing RSS links
- Twitter continues to make it more difficult to access api/hidden unpublished methods of accessing timeline RSS
- Accessing Facebook RSS is no walk in the park.
I suspect the conversation behind closed doors goes something like this:
- We’re all in the content business, we make money by people seeing ads on our website
- RSS subscribers get our content, but never visit our websites!
- Less visitors to the websites means less eyeballs on the ads. Less ad views = less money.
RSS is a great consumer level technology that helps to pull all the content we want to see into a single place for easy reading. However, I can’t see why major content providers who are focused on profit would want to keep the technology alive.
From a purely capitalist perspective, you want users on your website looking at your ads. There are business advantages to syndicating content along RSS, but those advantages end with exposure. I suspect we’ll see more content driven services lock down the gateways to their content, and shy away from unprofitable syndication as advertisement revenue models continue to fuel websites.
From a user perspective, this kind of anti syndication is a pain in the ass. For example, I just spent 30 minutes research how to pull in Twitter user timelines into Feedly. You know what? I can’t be done easily. In fact, I was only able to get it to work by pulling in the RSS feeds of a private Twitter list using some advanced url hackery. I suspect that Twitter rss url method is on the shot list to be chopped out as well. Feedly can pull in your individual timeline, and to deny that would be a little too bold for Twitter. Still, this kind of inconvenience does put me in a position that I will still continue using Twitter’s app along with Feedly to get all of the news I want to see. In this concession, Twitter gets what it needs: My eyes on their ads.
What’s the balance? On one had, businesses do need that advertisement money to operate. Services such as Twitter would not be nearly as popular if users had to actually pay for them. On the other hand I feel on some level we have an old school internet right to have information show up on the screen the way we want it. Syndicated content distilled into a single consumable source was in line with the vision of Aaron Swartz (/pours our liquor) when he helped usher in the post RSS internet, and that disruptive kind of technology always kicks the profit centric industry in the rear (initially).
Perhaps there is some way to call a truce, where the industry gets paid and the people get their content in a single source?
What about a RSSS model: Really Simple Sponsored Syndication? Users get their content delivered the way they want, while content providers pass along their ad data into the syndicated stream for display in the RSS client?