By Matt Birchler

How Dead is RSS? I Looked Into it and Things Seem…Good, Actually

I Miss RSS, by Billy Wilcosky:

RSS is still around but I’m saying I miss it because it’s not everywhere like it once was. It used to be in every web browser, and all major websites, such as Twitter, provided feeds. Then you would install a feed reader on your computer or join a website that let you subscribe to RSS feeds. So, you could go to a Twitter profile click a button in your browser and subscribe. Any new post would show up in your feed reader. That alone is nothing special but with RSS you also can subscribe to any news site or blog that provides a feed. This means you have a one stop shop. You have one place that alerts you anytime your favorite websites update.

Every few months it seems there’s another “I miss RSS” post that goes around, and personally, I never get it. Do fewer people use RSS readers than 10 years ago? Maybe…probably…but is RSS actually going away? Or as the author says, can you still have, “have one place that alerts you anytime your favorite websites update”?

Wilcosky specifies a few parts of the web that he thinks are hurting because of this, but they didn’t quite resonate with me, so I went to 10 sites I think are relatively representative of the sorts of things I might like to follow via RSS to see what I could and what I could not. I’m using Inoreader, and will see what happens when I enter each of these into them.

Birchtree

Obviously, this site works perfectly. It’s a traditional blog built on Ghost, so of course it does.

Twitter

Yup, I can follow Twitter accounts in Inoreader. It’s not technically using RSS, but they do make it simple to follow along and get their tweets served to you just like anything else in your reader.

The New York Times

Yup, works great. The Times also lets you subscribe to feeds for specific sections of the newspaper, which is a great touch.

Fox News

While I don’t think you should follow Fox News, you can do it via RSS.

PlayStation Store

Gah, our first miss! There’s no feed here, so if you want to see the latest game releases, you gotta go to the page itself. That would admittedly be a very noisy feed, but I’m sure games journalists would like to be able to track new releases with ease.

Inoreader does offer a feature where they’ll scan the page for updates, but it doesn’t always work well with storefronts, in my experience.

The Verge

The Verge does great with RSS, offering a full feed, as well as one for just front-page articles.

Wikipedia

I tried to see if I could follow a page for edits, in this case, the late Sidney Poitier, but that doesn’t seem to be an option. Wikipedia does have a bunch of RSS feeds for things like “on this day in history” and “picture of the day” but not this specific page.

Instagram

This is my another total bust. No way to follow at all.

Reddit

Paste in a subreddit URL and boom, you’ve got a feed of everything posted.

YouTube

Once again, this just works. Paste in a channel URL and get a feed.

Conclusion

I think these are a reasonably representative mix of the most popular sites out there, and it mirrors my experience following websites in RSS readers for the past couple decades. While I definitely agree that RSS seems less mainstream than it used to be (although how mainstream it ever was is unclear to me), but I don’t resonate with the feeling that it’s not possible to use RSS like we always have.

Yes, feed aggregators like Inoreader, Feedly, and many more have some tricks to get more sources into your reader, the fact is I can still easily follow almost everything I want in these apps. You mileage may vary, of course, but I suspect you’ll be in the same ballpark.

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