RSS is dead; long live RSS!

I was quite perplexed to see this article at ZDNet on techmeme, arguing that RSS is a failure. Now, I’ve been relying less and less on Google Reader myself as a source of news as well, but that’s not because of a failure in RSS technology but rather the obsolesence of Google Reader in the Twitter age. Marshall Kirkpatrick of RWW has a response, arguing that RSS isn’t dead but just one of many information-delivery mechanisms he relies on; I think this response misses the point, however. The truth is that RSS has become an infrastructure technology, the glue that binds the web together and makes it useful. Yahoo Pipes was a great example of how RSS could be used to manipulate content, and half the functionality of Twitter itself comes from the ability to use RSS to import content to it. Friendfeed also relies on RSS feeds generated from your social sphere, and Facebook has supported importing of RSS feeds for a while. The point here is that RSS is so prevalent it has become invisible. Yes, you can tap the raw stream of RSS content directly, using Google Reader or equivalent, but that’s like drinking from the firehose. The better approach is to let your social graph do the filtering for you and then present the result as a steady stream (the so-called river of news). That stream is content, but the streambed is RSS.

Related: Dave Winer makes much the same point, that “the Internet is layered.” Also see James Robertson’s comments about the closed tech pundit circle.