It seems that it was not so long ago that Prince declared the Internet to be dead. Now, others are claiming RSS is dead. It seems that Bloglines, an RSS aggregation service, is to be shut down by its parent company. The reason given? “RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly,” as more people adopt Twitter and Facebook as their primary news delivery device.
I’ve been around long enough to see technologies come and go, and in the case of those which haven’t quite gone, I’ve seen their usefulness wax and wane. It seems like not so long ago that I was telling some colleagues that any site that pleads the user to bookmark it (complete with keyboard shortcut sequence) seems quaintly old fashioned. I rarely bookmark sites, but if I’ve found one that I think that I may want to come back to, I’ll look for that little orange RSS icon to add it to my feed reader. If I can’t find that, it usually means that the site is a relic from 1997, and probably still has its original guestbook pages somewhere. Under no circumstances will I subscribe to a site’s e-mail “newsletter.”
I am not sold on the idea of Twitter as a replacement for the feed reader. Now, I may well be doing it wrong, but when I visit that site, I see a few dozen of the most recent tweets. I’ve missed anything that happened more than an hour ago (though I suppose I could click on More or whatever until I reached the desired point in time). Three days ago? Forget about it.
Another thing that bothers me about this concept is the shifting from distributed sources using open formats, to a centralized, proprietary source. The old cliché tells us not to put all of our eggs into one basket, but collectively we seem to love to do so. The fact is that the companies providing free-as-in-beer services such as these can make whatever changes to them that they like. It’s their hardware, their software, their infrastructure. If they make a change that upsets a few users, it matters to them little more than a television network airing an episode that upsets a few viewers… or canceling an unprofitable show, for that matter.
No, I’ll stick to my RSS reader for now. I admit, that may soon make me sound as old fashioned as the folks that promised that “DOS will never die,” and then that they would never upgrade to Windows 95, and who even now iterate through lists of bookmarks in order to keep up with their favorite websites. I’ll probably keep using my feed reader until it looks like this comic strip.