Yesterday, ZDNet's Sam Diaz called RSS a "Web 1.0 tool" and voiced the opinion that "there are better ways now". He noted a Forrester Research study showing that only 9% of adults in the US use an RSS reader monthly -- a 2% drop from 2008.

Diaz's comments were in response to a Google blog post announcing the release of the second annual Google Reader Power Readers, a collection of the sites various influential individuals call their favorites.

To Diaz, Power Readers is an attempt by Google to reinvigorate interest in Google Reader, Google's online RSS reader. But he has moved on:

Once a big advocate for Google Reader, I have to admit that I haven’t logged in in weeks, maybe months. That’s not to say I’m not reading. Sometimes I feel like reading - and writing this blog - are the only things I do. But my sources of for reading material are scattered across the Web, not in one aggregated spot.

Diaz levels some valid criticisms at RSS. Aggregating all of the sites you read on a regular basis is easier said than done and keeping up with the vast amount of unread RSS items that quickly accumulate is all but impossible. Of course, many users never had to deal with the challenges RSS presents; it isn't exactly a mainstream phenomenon. Ask the average person on the street what RSS means and you'll probably get more than a few funny guesses and blank stares.

Social media, on the other hand, is a mainstream phenomenon. One that Diaz hints provides a better solution. So is it time to declare RSS dead?

In my opinion, the answer is no. RSS may not be as popular as Twitter or Facebook, but who says it has to be? Twitter and Facebook are great for content discovery; RSS is one of a number of tools that can be used for content aggregation. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges.

The real question is who is RSS hurting? Nobody. Even if only 9% of adult internet users in the US use an RSS reader monthly, that's still a pretty sizable part of the internet population. And given how easy it is for publishers to implement RSS feeds and make them available to users in a non-intrusive manner, there's really no reason for many publishers not to offer RSS.

Bottom line: this isn't an either/or proposition. Not every technology has to achieve 90%+ adoption to be useful. Social media is an excellent and popular medium for content discovery; RSS is a useful medium for content delivery. Let's leave it at that.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 August, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (6)

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Michael Cooper

The technology behind RSS is responsible for introducing the concept of web 2.0 resulting in the birth of blogs and podcasts. As a regular Google Reader user I'm continuing to enjoy this tool with each new incarnation (currently my iPhone) and added features such as Postrank filtering with Firefox plugin to ensure I don't miss content that is important to me.

I don't think RSS is dead, it just needs to evolve. RSS is already finding its way onto TVs and as the web becomes more personalised, these two will become closely aligned so that video, audio and text news that we are interested in will be delivered to directly in our living rooms. Maybe even further programming will be included effectively becoming a way of delivering our favourite (and recommended) TV programmes. That's when RSS will become mainstream. Of course it probably won't be called that then. it needs to be much more marketing friendly :)

almost 9 years ago



I think people who think RSS is dead don't know what RSS is. They think it's like email, a content delivery method to end users but they are wrong.

RSS is an XML standard, like SOAP, and is the way everything is linked together. You post to a blog and twitterfeed will monnitor RSS feed and tweet the posts. Publishers put their content up on their CMS all day, every day and they have an RSS parser that ESPs will look at to get email content and automatically get the latest RSS content into an email and send automatically.

Online Social networking & cloud computing could not exist at the level and accessability it is at now without RSS.

almost 9 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

I don't think RSS as a 'consumer' technology (specifically, take up via RSS readers as a replacement or complement to email) has every really taken off and never will.

However, RSS as a content syndication mechanism, to facilitate the sharing, configuring, aggregating etc. of content has always been important and continues to be very important, and growing. "Cap" makes this point correctly above.

almost 9 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Agree with you on this Patricio. I've read a few articles pronouncing the death of RSS and there has been some discussion in the Chinwag UKNM group on this matter.

Saying RSS is dead and social media offers a better alternative completely misses the point, in my opinion. RSS provides different functionality to social. Yes, tools like Twitter can be more immediate and engaging. However, RSS can add value if the message is relevant and targeted to the right audience. Retailers like ASOS use RSS to provide daily fashion updates and push product - would they bother if nobody used it? 

Agree with Cap, RSS is not just an email delivery system. I use it to notify me of blog updates for people whose opinions I value. I would not spend the time going to their websites/blogs to access new content, I want it delivered to me, either direct to inbox or into my reader. It is convenient and efficient.

For me RSS is simply one communication  tool in the online mix and should compliment social media and email, not compete with it.



almost 9 years ago


Ged Carroll

RSS isn't dead, though consumers may use it in different ways and through different formats such as Twitter, Facebook newsfeeds.

Its analgous to saying faucets are dead because bottled water is popular

almost 9 years ago



RSS is an important tool to collect and manage data across devices. We use RSS extensively to power Mobile Internet sites for "news" and other sections, dynamically reformatting the web-RSS content to fit the small screen user experience. Most decent CMS solutions generate RSS, so to create and launch a dynamic mobile site RSS is a highly (cost) effective option.

Agree with other comments re B2C / consumer, not really an RSS audience.

almost 9 years ago

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