What is the future of RSS

In my last post I looked at why, when faced with information overload, we need to be focused on the tools to filter that information rather than holding our hands up in despair at there being too much information.

Fast forward four weeks and we hear that one of those filtering tools – Google Reader – is being shut down on 1 July this year.

Google Reader

On the Google Reader blog (http://googlereader.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/powering-down-google-reader.html), Google says it is closing the service down for two reasons:

“There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.”

The news was met with howls of disapproval from fans of the service, of which I am one. I’m not going to lament its passing here but the news tells us something about the tools we use to find and filter information:
1. The developers of filtering tools can shut them down just as easily as they set them up. We – as users – are very much in ‘their’ hands
2. Using RSS readers is a niche activity – as a journalist I need to stay informed so have a need to use the tool.
3. There is no defacto tool for searching and filtering multiple web sources.

Many times I have explained my use of RSS readers to peers, clients and even friends and family only to be met with a blank face. Anecdotally it certainly seems to me that using an RSS reader is a niche activity.

That does not take away its importance however. I have hundreds of content sources currently feeding into my RSS reader. At a glance I can see what’s happening in the areas I follow – be it content marketing, news or UX – and from there I can share links.

My RSS reader is where I find things out – direct from the source of information. This is quite different to the Twitter firehose, which although enables me to do the same thing comes with additional noise which requires more work to filter.

For example, 500 feeds in an RSS reader only get updated when new content is published. Those very same 500 people on Twitter might be averaging 20 tweets a day and yet only publish new content once every two or three days. You get the idea of how much more there is to filter . . .

This point is well made by content strategist Adam Tinworth, who says:

“Twitter is where I go to find out what’s happening. My RSS reader is where I go to become informed.”

So what’s the future? Well, for me it is to find myself a new RSS reader. There are no end of lists of replacements so finding an alternative to Google Reader won’t be a problem.

But I am already comfortable using the technology. What about all of our friends, family, colleagues and customers who are not? Coming back to the scale of information on the web, the issue comes down to the skills – digital literacies, if you like – that will be required to find, filter and share information and data that is relevant to those in our networks and communities.

The people, the information, the data we need to learn, to perform better, to do better business is all out there in some shape or form. The challenge is to be able to find it and use it.

A final thought. What of the technology itself, what is the future of RSS? It is work in progress, a point well made by Joe Moreno (http://blog.joemoreno.com/2013/03/RSS-Future.html):

What seems obvious to me is that RSS will not go away; instead, it will (and already is) being built upon. In the near future, it will no longer be a consumer facing technology anymore than DOS or a Unix shell is today, but RSS will be the glue to tie together publisher and consumer. Could you seriously see a completely different feed standard being developed  from scratch in the near future? Baby steps to stand on the shoulders of giants.

If like me, you are search for a new RSS reader, then here are 40 alternatives (http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/62356-40-alternatives-to-google-reader?utm_medium=feeds&utm_source=blog) to whet your appetite.



  1. says

    I am a daily consumer of RSS feeds and, like you, I usually encounter blank stares when I try to encourage clients to use an RSS reader. I honestly can’t imagine how many work hours would be added to my day if the technology went away. However, I do believe there will have to be some overall changes to the technology in the future that allow the providers of RSS Readers to monetize their efforts beyond poor-performing PPC campaigns.

  2. says

    Hi Karen, thanks for the comment. I’m totally with you about the hours that would be lost if I couldn’t read RSS feeds. It’s an interesting one about monetising RSS readers. I currently use the Mobile RSS app on my iphone and that includes ads in-app. I find the ads a distraction as I am in headline reading mode. I’d be more interested in paying for a subscription to a reader that did all the things I need it to do. It’ll be interesting to see how the tech develops, as you say.

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