In a blog post last week, Ask.com announced that they were shutting down the Bloglines service. This has lead some to conclude that RSS is dying. Do Twitter, Facebook, and aggregator sites like Fark and Reddit obviate the need for RSS? For me, at least, the answer is clearly “no.”
There’s no doubt that I find many interesting news articles through those methods (although I get more value in the discussions on Fark and Reddit than I do from the articles themselves), but at the core this operates based on what others find interesting. Sure, in the case of Twitter and Facebook, the posts I see are probably from people with similar interests, but I want to make sure I get the posts that I want to see. Social media/news aggregator sites are great for finding new sites, but pretty lousy for following them.
Visiting each site on a regular basis to check for new content isn’t exactly a beneficial use of my time, either. I currently have 85 subscriptions in my Google Reader account. Some of them haven’t updated in weeks (or months!), while 13 update more than once per day. Visiting each site to find that some have many updates for me to catch up on while even more have nothing new sounds like a recipe for frustration.
Of course, many sites post to Facebook and Twitter when a new post is up (I do the same thing), but that lacks state. I’ve got no way of telling by looking at a Tweet or Facebook post if I’ve read the article or not. Social media is a great tool for sharing sites that I or others find interesting, but it doesn’t work well when trying to catch up on a few days of missed posts. With an RSS service like Google Reader, it’s possible to access the latest posts from your favorite sites from multiple devices and always know which have been read.
So is RSS dead? Hardly. RSS will continue to drive podcasts and blog reading for many people, regardless of what Ask.com feels like doing.