The RSS Numbers
It’s unclear what exactly destroyed RSS, but Google closing Google Reader definitely didn’t help. Another factor was the rise of aggregation sites like Slashdot, Digg, and Reddit, which seductively took on the burden of surfacing the best content.
A couple things on this article.
One, arguments about the “death of RSS” often cite the sites in that quote as killing it, not to mention Twitter and Facebook. My question is “how big was RSS when Google killed Reader?” Was it as big as the audiences of reddit, Twitter, and Facebook combined? I would humbly guess…no, not even close. I think that while some RSS readers switched to curated feeds of information, but I feel pretty confident saying that most users of these major modern platforms never used RSS in the first place.
I’d love to know how many DAUs Reader had at its peak, but that information does not seem to be publicly available, at least in my queries.
And two, articles like this suggest that RSS has been dead and that it’s time for it to come back. Maybe I’m biased because I never left, but in the wake of Reader shutting down, a bunch of RSS syncing services have cropped up. If you download Reeder for iOS today, you can sync with:
- Feed Wrangler
- The Old Reader
- BazQux Reader
These are almost all businesses supported by RSS users and have been operating for many years. Almost all of them cropped up to fill the void left by Google Reader. Again, the numbers aren’t publicly available, but I’d love to know how the number of users of these platforms combined relate to Google Reader when it shut down. Maybe it’s a much smaller number, but maybe it’s also comparable, just decentralized.
As a final note, someone is going to mention it, so I should add that RSS is of course the basis for podcasts and tons of other web technologies. This is totally true, but this is not what “let’s bring back RSS” articles are talking about.