RSS Is Alive And Well

Somehow the comments on my "10 Characteristics of Great Companies" post yesterday drifted into the topic of the future of RSS. I was debating whether to wade into this silly debate about whether "RSS is dead" or not and was leaning toward ignoring it. But the discussion yesterday in the comments convinced me otherwise. So here it is.

Mike Arrington wrote a post on TechCrunch the other day suggesting that Twitter was killing RSS.

I think there is some truth to the assertion that Twitter has replaced feed readers for some people. I have never used a feed reader successfully so it hasn't replaced that for me, but I certainly do use Twitter to find links to news and blog posts that I want to read.

But RSS is way more than the readers it spawned. It is a fundamental part of the Internet architecture and is used for all sorts of things. It's the subscribe system of the internet and a 'default function' in the Internet operating system.

Kid Mercury, a frequent commenter on this blog and also its resident "bouncer" said this which I wholeheartedly agree with:

there is only one thing i can say to the "rss is dead" argument: pfft.

think the problem stems from the fact that the geeks embraced RSS and
thought it would be a consumer technology. but alas, it was not meant
to be. however, i think businesses will need to invest in RSS to create
cool things consumers will use, and to help with internal
communications systems.

I don't think RSS is going anywhere and I certainly don't think Twiiter is killing RSS.

Once again we find the tech blogosphere jumping up and down about something 'killing' something else. I've written about this before because it annoys me to no end.

It is rare that one piece of technology kills another, particularly when it is a successful technology that is widely used. Most deaths are self inflicted not brought on by others.

So when you read a post that says 'XYZ is killing ABC', I suggest you see it for what it is, a lame attempt to get pageviews because the author had nothing interesting to contribute on the topic.


Comments (Archived):

  1. A3Munier

    spot on! (as usual…;)

  2. whitneymcn

    Funny, must have been something in the water yesterday. In writing a post on a different topic (accretion of data over time becoming as important as aggregation across sources) I wrote almost the exact same paragraph as Kid Mercury:”You can’t discuss aggregation without touching on RSS. We’ve never seen the oft-forecast “year that RSS goes mainstream,” exactly, but that’s really because we spent a long time looking at the wrong metric. While the online population at large has never taken to RSS readers as a replacement for just visiting a bunch of sites, RSS feeds (often unrecognized as such) have become mainstream as a component of the Web sites we visit or even the engine driving those sites behind the scenes.”

    1. fredwilson

      Yes, exactly

    2. Doug Kersten


  3. gregorylent

    am in china, 12 hrs off nyc time, and it is cool to see your blog posts roll in like clockwork, your morning, my evening ..consistency, thy name is fred

    1. fredwilson

      As jason calacanis says ‘showing up every day is the secret to building and maintaining an audience’. I don’t know any other way

      1. Vaibhav Domkundwar

        True, but I admire your ability to come up with as many interesting topics on a daily basis. Its one thing to think about them and another to get a thoughtful articulation of it written up EVERYday. Very cool.

      2. timraleigh

        or as Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up” Thanks for posting (the RSS blog) Fred.

  4. Howard Mann

    Sometimes the more technical names we give things in the beginning make it difficult for people to understand why they are important or why they should care. RSS is a great example. But, as you said, “It is the subscribe button for the internet.” That description will make far more sense than “grab my rss feed.”Any button that makes it easy to subscribe to sites you like is not something that is going away any time soon. Many just the term RSS should go away ;)Also, totally agree re the angle too many posts take as they seem to only find joy in declaring something a failure or its imminent demise. Clearly there is a better way to drab traffic but they have to be willing to try (And maybe be more optimistic in general). Frustrating indeed.

  5. David Noël

    Only recently I was able to convince my dad (60+) to start using Google Reader. He’s been always telling me how much stuff he needs to read off the internet and when I saw his bookmark collection of things he goes through regularly I had to take some serious action:I set up a Google account for him, showed him Google reader, asked him to tell me the 10 most important news sites and blogs he reads (I snuck in AVC in there) and arranged these into different categories. 6 weeks later, last weekend he told me that it has drastically improved his way to consume news and seems to have given his productivity a boost. He’s now able to manage his Reader on his own, even if that sounds crazy for people like us.My point is: I agree with Kid on this one. There is still quite a barrier for non-tech/geeks to use RSS in an value-adding way and there is a lot of room for improvement to offer a great user experience for a broader audience. Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr (Fred’s “passed links”) has helped a lot solving the problem RSS initially tried to solve but we’re not there yet.

    1. rdeichert

      David you touched on the problem, it’s too hard. I love Google Reader, it allows me to consume tons of content/news in an efficient format for me. Most people don’t have someone like you to sit down and setup the reader for them. It’s still too hard.

      1. Aaron Klein

        It is getting easier. If you point out to a non-techie the orange button, at least in Firefox, it’s remembering for me that I use Google for RSS. So when I click it, I get the RSS feed with an “Add to Google” button at the top, and then that lets me choose iGoogle or Reader.I agree with you that it’s still a bit too hard, but it’s getting there.

        1. rdeichert

          You can also follow the money. My guess would be there isn’t too muchincentive around driving more RSS usage because monetization isn’t welldeveloped/utilized.It would be interesting to do some surveys of people who regularly visit awebsite to ask why they don’t use RSS.

    2. Vaibhav Domkundwar

      I believe Readers may still be too techie for most users of the web on this planet. Most users use email comfortably and what is needed is something as simple as email to help identify and consumer content you like.

  6. Nicolas Cynober

    I recently commented a mapping of this “RSS is dead” lowtech blogosphere phenomenon, my point was: pfft as well. In fact you just pointed out what this is all about. RSS is a technology, Twitter is a community using a service.Moreover RSS is not a random technology, it is a standard way to share information across the web.People should compare what it is comparable. Twitter API is a private technologie to share Twitter feeds. RSS means “RDF Site Summary” (yes it is the first name), this is W3C technology which is based on the main semantic web technology (RDF). So RSS is not dead, RSS is part of the future of the web.

  7. David Semeria

    The only good bit of the RSS is dead meme is watching Dave Winer going increasingly apeshit about it.

    1. thewalrus


    2. andyswan

      Nominated for comment of the year.

      1. kidmercury

        i second the nomination

    3. Mark Essel

      I can imagine Dave Winers pain in this regard. There’s no convincing the irrational/misdefined noise though. It’ll deflate and RSS will be just about everywhere as always.

  8. AndyBeard

    I need to get back on my campaign to get Google to support authenticated feeds in reader, along with publisher controls to restrict sharing. It will be an unholy mess if the stock photo companies decide to crack down on illegal sharing of complete copyright works (photos)There are so many private RSS feeds I would love delivered to my desktop where I have paid $XXXX for the premium content.

  9. mattb2518

    If I had a nickel for every “email is dead article,” I would be rich. People pay too much attention to silly media stunts. And individual enthusiasts’ emotional outbursts, however articulate they may be, are rarely representative.

  10. jacopogio

    Hi, I agree with the concept that RSS is a technology and that what is missing is the easysimple RSSReader appli. Thinking at GoogleNews compared with => same content but what a difference for the user.

  11. Carl Rahn Griffith

    RSS is beautiful.

    1. Doug Kersten


  12. William Mougayar

    This silly debate was fueled by a Steve Gillmor post on TechcrunchIT a few weeks ago. People are confusing RSS with RSS Readers. And they are throwing the baby (RSS) with the bath water (Reader). Fact is- the failure has been on the part of Readers, not RSS. Most Readers have not provided the reading experience many would have liked to have. Enter Twitter which simplifies and streamlines the reading experience, especially for discovering links you wouldn’t otherwise. In essence, each Twitter follower you add to your stream is like adding an RSS feed, but it’s not called RSS.RSS is like plumbing or infrastructure; it’s becoming almost invisible and does its job in the background. Saying it’s dead because of Twitter is like saying HTTP is dead because of 3G.Users are better off sticking to a combination of Twitter streams and smart aggregators.

    1. Dan Entin

      I totally agree with you – it’s about RSS Readers not RSS, which Twitter *is* killing. I used to use Bloglines for RSS and now never do because the feeds I care most about I follow through Twitter.

    2. smilbandit

      I also agree about the readers. I’ve been using my own for two years now and I would have thought the larger readers would have added similar features as I have, but nothing really.

  13. William Mougayar

    Here’s a little utility I’d like to see from Twitter: “RSS to Twitter subscribe button”, as a widget/button you can place next to your existing RSS button. 2 existing RSS to Twitter services have gone belly-up; 2 others I use are not reliable, and I’m trying 2 other ones.

    1. RichardF

      I’d second that….

  14. Olle Ahnve

    Lame is exactly what it is. * RSS is nowhere close to where it could be in regards to usability which is a major problem when it comes to adoption rates. * The fact that only very few major media utilize RSS in smart ways (read: partial feeds which kills the whole idea… almost) is another problem. *The third problem is that people don’t know how to handle RSS. (Enter shameless plug) Read up on Google Reader here:

    1. dave

      I don’t mind partial feeds at all. In my new River2 aggregator, in fact, I strip the HTML from each item and limit each item to 512 characters. This makes the news page incredibly easy to scan with just the scrollbar. If you find something you want more info on, click the link.I think that’s one of the reasons why people don’t like Google Reader — that RSS doesn’t suggest a “reader” app — what it needs is a skimmer app. For skimming you don’t need the full text.I’ve been saying that all along. It’s taken ten years for the “reader” mentality to shake out. Guess what — the Twitter guys seem to agree, except they stopped at 140 characters where I went for 512.

      1. Olle Ahnve

        Good comment. However, I am used to the partial feeds where I get the headline and nothing else, which does ruin the relationship with the media for me.But I love the skimmer app idea.

        1. dave

          I totally agree that a headline is not enough. I wouldn’t bother with such a feed.

          1. David Semeria

            I actually only ever read the headlines in the reader, and always click through to the original site. The funny thing is this: since I frequently couldn’t be bothered navigating around the site looking for other stuff to read, I frequently go back to reader for a uniform list of the site’s content.I think there is some sort of lesson there….

          2. JB Holston

            tweets are even shorter (and almost always more cryptic) than headlines/excerpts in readers — people are happy with comprehensible summaries and pointers almost always

        2. dave

          BTW, this is the “skimmer” app – just shipped yesterday, so give it a few days, we’re still shaking out some loose-ends. We’ve got some incredibly passionate users who are helping me. It makes a huge difference.

          1. Olle Ahnve

            The headline feeds keep me from surfing my football (soccer) sites, so I still need them… I simply have to put up with knowing less about my team :).Will take a look at the app!

      2. Doug Kersten

        I like getting a good chunk of the article, if not all of it. I use Google Reader like my own personal Kindle where the feeds are chapters in never ending stories. There are problems with Reader in that there is only so much I can consume but it is the same with books. I do like it when sites give me a choice of feeds so that I can customize my reading by topic.I use twitter as my tabloid, RSS as my newspaper, web sites with the original content as my magazines, and Google Reader to create my own, living books. Maybe something like Google Wave will be able to combine these separate functions into something new but even then all of these will still continue to exist in one form or the other.Oh, and RSS is plumbing. Understanding that should kill the silly idea that RSS is dead.

        1. ShanaC

          Rss is definitely plumbing, using it the way I do will kill you. It;s just figuring out how to make the plumbing work, and building better stuff for the plumbing. Right now I feel like looking at RSs that I am looking at the aquaducts, when I look at my feeds. I’ve started to ignore the,.

  15. Diego Sana

    I must admit that i wrote a post saying that Twitter could kill rss in february, way before techcrunch started to hype this subject, . I did the same mistake all others are doing now: when i said RSS, what i really meant was Google Reader and feed readers at all. RSS is definitely not going to die (and if it did, it would drag a lot of inovative websites that are impossible without rss into its grave), and i believe that even news readers will conquer more mainstream users with all the new protocols and approachs that started to come out this year.By the way, for all of you using twitter to follow links, i’m working on a solution (still related to that blog scrobbling thing you asked in february, Fred) that will make your life easier 🙂

  16. Aaron Klein

    I think I commented on that post “I use both. I wouldn’t give up either.”Twitter is all about discoverability and communication. Sure, I get some blog post links there, but there are times when I travel when I don’t check up on my twitter feed, and I don’t go backwards trying to “catch up” — I just reattach to the stream.I actually just started using RSS, though, and it allowed me to reclaim my e-mail as a useful tool. I’ve been aggressively unsubscribing from every piece of RSS-able content. With spam already very manageable with Google Postini, e-mail has gone back to being a hyper productive tool with inbox going to zero regularly.And now my Google Reader is my inbox for content, and by splitting it into folders, I can easily do “content bankruptcy” on the less important categories any time I’m busy, while not missing out on important blog posts that may even be a week old.There is definite room — and need — for all three technologies.

    1. ShanaC

      Big question here – I would say that discoverability is like the endpoint to your plumbing (the rss), how do you make the connecting pieces?

      1. Aaron Klein

        I’m not sure I totally understand your question, but maybe I do. Feel free to expound if I missed it. :)I have a blog ( and post on Twitter with a respectable but not huge number of uniques and followers.I do tweet my blog posts, but I don’t connect my RSS feed to Twitter. It’s too automated for me, and the blog headlines I like to write don’t work well as descriptive tweets.So to me, Twitter, RSS and e-mail subscription (I offer all three) are just different distribution channels for content. Just like how you can get Gap clothes at the mall, the outlet store, online or over the phone.

        1. ShanaC

          Correct. RSS feed in its current incarnation is not enough. It’s how do you connect everything in the best forms so that people get what they need. One of the reasons i am liking sematic technogy so much, and hopping it will be emedded in the piping

          1. Aaron Klein

            Yep good points.

  17. John Sharp

    RSS isn’t dead – it’s more like a problem child struggling to get to adulthood. Anyone that has ever played with RSS feeds from an aggregation standpoint knows “the truth that lies beneath” – that many RSS feeds (including some popular ones) suffer from a lack of adherence to standards, strange naming conventions or missing tags, random inclusion of special characters and/or objects that some XML parsers don’t deal with well, and non-contextual advertising inserts.The good news for us AVC readers is, this feed is well-constructed.

  18. RichardF

    RSS as the plumbing isn’t dead but someone needs to create the defacto “follow me” button that the masses understand and makes that “feed” appear in whatever “reader” a consumer of that information wants it to without having to worry about what RSS is. I’ve said this before here, my wife has no clue what RSS is nor what google reader is, I’d say she is the average internet user and would find some sort of rss reader very useful but would not have a clue about how to set one up or subscribe to feeds.Feedly is the best reader I’ve come across so far.

    1. William Mougayar

      I agree with your first point. We’re seeing services that allow you to Subscribe to “Topics” instead of RSS feeds, and that’s another direction that I think will get traction. If someone else (or a smart system) has done a good job at aggregating a bunch of RSS feeds into 1 clever topic-stream, then why not subscribe to it instead of tinkering with feeds all day long? (hint: check out Eqentia 🙂

      1. smilbandit

        Funny thing is that most topics are already aggregated within the rss feeds using the category element. It’s just that the “readers” are not using that data for article presentation. Sure just using the category element isn’t going to have a great signal to noise ratio but if you’ve followed the “it’s all about the data not the algorithm” meme alot of the data is already there. (hint: check out tagged feeds at

      2. Mark Essel

        William I like this idea.There’s an opportunity to capitalize on the information present within the entire pipeline by filtering it in real time through the best semantic technology available (today Zemanta’s doing a good job). By clustering real time information by tags we can begin to see trends by category, and quickly recognize original content (don’t get me wrong I love reposts with personalized context).

        1. William Mougayar

          Hi Mark,Actually, we’re already doing most of that with Eqentia. We’re due for a catch-up. How can i reach you? I’m at wmougayar AT gmail. thanks.

    2. dave

      That button is going to require some pooling of resources among the giants of the tech industry. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for years. Each one of them thinks they’re big enough to get it to all coalesce behind their brand. So you end up with a huge number of ways to “follow” in RSS-land. It sucks. It’s a product of the immaturity of the tech industry and a lack of will in the publishing industry.

      1. RichardF

        If I were Twitter, I’d be trying really hard to become that button right now, although I agree with your point that others have tried (and failed) to get it to all coalesce behind their brand. I just happen to think Twitter has the brand kudos right now to make a good attempt at it and even if they fail, it would be nice to have a Twitter button that would pull the feed into my Twitter account (as William Mougayar has already suggested)

        1. dave

          Absolutely. But they have a scaling problem, and if they did that they’d have to absorb a significant share of the RSS flow, and that’s the problem and why it’s ludicrous to think that RSS is anything but the elephant in the room and the 800-pound gorilla combined.You can see it in the famous TechCrunch leak piece of the internal Twitter docs. They know they can’t handle the load.That’s why a distributed approach is the only one with any hope of working. The reason RSS could grow so huge is the same reason HTML and HTTP could, it’s not centralized. That was the mistake Feedburner made. They thought “Oh we can make a killing by snarfing up all the RSS.” No way Jose. That’s a losing proposition. Luckily they got Google to give them $100 mill before the house of cards collapsed. They too put the brakes on growth.Anyway I probably shouldn’t be taking up this much space in Fred’s comments. This is beginning to feel more like a blog post.

          1. fredwilson

            this is a great comment Daveyou and everyone else are free to use as much of my comment thread as you wanti love this discussion we are having about RSStoo bad it won’t be seen by most of the people who read Arrington’s crap

          2. RichardF

            I’ll second all of your points there Fred. Where else can you get a discussion going like this and get someone like Dave to contribute ?

          3. Vaibhav Domkundwar


          4. David Semeria

            For all its supposed scalability issues, twitter still has much lower latency than RSS.

          5. dave

            Apples and oranges, RSS is a format and a base of content in that format. Twitter is a net app.Twitter is actually a source of RSS. Every users feed is available in RSS, as are your favorites.There’s no conflict between RSS and Twitter. That was the point of Fred’s piece. They can’t be conflated.

          6. David Semeria

            Apples and oranges?That’s why a distributed approach is the only one with any hope of working. The reason RSS could grow so huge is the same reason HTML and HTTP could, it’s not centralized.That’s you above comparing Twitter’s centralized approach to RSS’ distributed one. So make your mind up, is RSS simply a format, or does it also represent a delivery architecture for that format?FWIW, I think the entire debate is sterile. The underlying technology behind both RSS and Twitter is pretty straightfoward – all that really matters is adoption. There is more than enough space for both.

          7. dave

            I certainly agree that the “entire debate is sterile.”Re what I think — that’s a sterile debate too. I know what I think, and you either trust me or you don’t and the fate of the world isn’t hinging on whether you do or don’t.Peace…

          8. David Semeria


          9. Mark Essel

            Dave I think there are other network distribution methods for rss sharing that have pretty low latency. As I understand it, pubsubhubbub can “in theory” have almost instant response. What we really need is a ubiquitous information replication backbone that instantly updates information in real time globally. We shouldn’t settle for anything less.

          10. Doug Kersten

            It was always my feeling that Twitter should be a provider of RSS feeds, not a consumer. You get an endless feedback loop where Twitter creates content, provides it to an outsider, the outsider repackages it and provides it to Twitter, where it is treated and new content and spit out again, leading to a feedback loop and crushing load.Sure you could provide original content to Twitter via a feed but feeds are created at machine speed, not people speed and I think Twitter is really designed for people speed.

      2. William Mougayar

        I know of 6 services that take RSS and feed it to a Twitter account either via the OAuth window or a web panel. What we need is to hide this interim step, and ask the user to only enter their Twitter username/password. The closest so far is TweetmeNews, but I don’t want it limited to their news.

  19. skysurfer172

    As a web technologist for the USDA, I can tell you the government heavily uses RSS as a “transparency tool” to publish information to the American public as mandated by law. RSS has allowed us to do what is required simply and effectively and has reduced government e-mail practices considerably.

  20. Aaron Klein

    Hey Fred, this is a little off topic, but since the post at least touches Twitter, I felt less bad about asking the question here. I binged and googled this, can’t find an answer, and given your international travel, figure that you probably do.Is 40404 a global code for Twitter? When I’m roaming in Italy or Ethiopia in November, will that work for tweeting?

  21. nickdavis

    A quick look at my Facebook page shows me that Facebook is the first real mass implementation of an RSS reader, or at least accomplishes the same goal. Most people will never sign up for Google Reader or know what the RSS button is, but they will become “fans” of something and see the updates come through in a unified fashion.RSS as communications protocol is now an ingrained standard, but Facebook is winning the reader war, and it seems like no one is paying attention.

    1. dave

      That’s right. Another example, I do a weekly podcast with Marshall Kirkpatrick and one with Jay Rosen, and I have linked the RSS feeds from both of those to the FriendFeed groups for each. Now about 15 minutes after each show a little MP3 player shows up in the groups, ready to play the podcast. To a user it must look like we did some kind of deal with Facebook, but we didn’t. Having the compatibility makes things like this possible.It took a lot of patient work to get everyone on board with this.One thing has been clear is that it doesn’t do Twitter any good to be associated with the lunacy about the unmentionable thing that TechCrunch is promoting here. I’m glad Fred did his part to create some distance. I hope the Twitter guys will do whatever they can to discourage the link that TC is trying to create here.

      1. Doug Kersten

        How about this, it makes more sense…Twitter killed Techcrunch, Techcrunch is dead.

        1. fredwilson

          why am i hearing “video killed the radio star” playing in my head right now?

          1. Doug Kersten

            True, but then again MTV used that song really well as a marketing tool;) Amethod to the madness.

  22. Venkat

    RSS is not getting replaced by Twitter, but it is interesting to think about why this debate started at all.I personally saw my use of the 2 media being coupled. When I first got serious on twitter, I *did* slow down and actually stop reading my RSS feeds for a while. But after a few months, I got back to reading RSS, and now I balance the 2.The reason this happens is simple: in your portfolio of information sources, twitter is high volatility stocks. RSS is bonds. You only have so much bandwidth per day for news (though it may vary over a week or year). Depending on your psychological state and info needs, you may be looking for either more or less predictability, and you will allocate attention to twitter/RSS accordingly. The former has more capacity to surprise you, since it throws samples of more sources at you. The latter is more reliable. Of course, anything you find in twitter that you want to keep, and not leave to chance in the twitter-verse in the future, you will bring into your RSSsphere.So yes, there IS a tradeoff. It is the oldest tradeoff in global optimization: exploration vs. exploitation, the same one that’s at the heart of genetics and evolution. Tons of optimization and optimal control algorithms rely on injecting noise into deterministic processes. When times grow uncertain and your work seems shaky, you want to explore more for news. The higher dimensionality of the entire news-sphere makes you shift to the stochastic methods of twitter (as any good randomized algorithms book will tell you :)). When you are happy with your work and things seem more certain, low-dimensionality deterministic methods suffice, and your old friend RSS will do.

    1. fredwilson

      i like that analogy of high volatility stocks and bondsit works for me

  23. ErikSchwartz

    The way I read it I think Mike was being ironic.Hard to tell with him.

    1. fredwilson

      irony or not, he started a meme which is not right and should becalled bullshit on

      1. dave

        Thanks for that Fred. And thanks for the post. You’re a good guy. 🙂

      2. ErikSchwartz

        The meme is clearly BS. Twitter is not going to kill RSS.What is true is mainstream consumers are generally not aware of RSS, but then they’re not aware of GSM, or CDMA, or TCP/IP or lots of other technologies that make the web and the mobile world run either. They don’t care because they don’t need to care. Many consumers have not even separated the browser from the start page it’s pointed at (ask them what browser they use and they say “google”).I think the developers of RSS readers have done themselves a product positioning disservice by focusing on the enabling technology (RSS) rather than what the enabling technology enables you to do (consume auto-updating content from disparate sources in a single place with a single interface).In the future I think you’re going to many different kinds of more specialized clients able to consume RSS feeds on lots of different kinds of devices. TVs, phones, cars, will all have specialized “RSS readers” in them.The stand alone RSS reader will go the way of the terminal, I’m not giving it up, but most people have no idea it exists.

  24. thomas

    fast food didn’t kill the sewer system, so what?

  25. Create your mobile site

    rss is here to stay, and it hasn’t reach the mainstream now (at least in Germany where I leave and I guess in many other places), but almost every single new Site offers an rss feature, hmmm even Techcrunch still has this RSS feature.(Beta comment)

  26. Bill Davenport

    I’m probably a dinosaur but I use Google Reader heavily, multiple times per day and do not have a twitter account. For social stuff I use Facebook.

    1. fredwilson

      you’re not a dinosaur. far from itdifferent things work for different peoplei think your approach works fine

    2. Eric Friedman

      I use Google Reader constantly. There are many services that surface the most popular stories and most passed around sensational headlines, but staying with a constant set of blogs gives depth and meaning to a series of topics. It also lets you follows themes over time vs. what is “hot” right now. I have changed my Google reading habits a bit, but I still love the fact that I can follow someones larger more comprehensive thoughts over time.

  27. kidmercury

    breaking news folks….fred wilson becomes the first VC (at least to my knowledge) to link to a new world order site……DAMN!!!!!! :)lol, seriously, that is the real story here. rss and all the geek stuff is nice and all, and pouncing on mikey is even nicer, but the true awesomeness of the internet lies in the changes in relationships and behaviors it creates. kinda ties into last week’s conversation about craigslist. CL sure has hell doesn’t have the first clue about cutting edge technology, but they understand people, relationships, and the internet’s enormous potential to transform governance. and that’s why CL continues to win while most geeks create killer interfaces and fancy tools that go nowhere.i hope other folks will follow fred’s lead here and link to kook sites. not just mine, anyone’s, there are tons out there (and more coming each day) and there is no better example of how the internet empowers individuals and revolutionizes media. kudos to fred for having the courage to link to sites like mine, i know it is a lot harder to do stuff like that when you are rich and popular and thus have a lot more to lose. for me it is easy in many ways, i don’t have much money and don’t like people anyway (half the time i am almost baiting people just so i can pounce on them in the comments 🙂 ), so what do i have to lose, i have more to gain. of course given the path our world is on we all have much to gain through honest discussions, that is the good news. and for those of us who know the internet is more revolutionary than the printing press…well, revolutions, while well worth the investment, are a bit jarring and often uncomfortable. just like 9/11 a round of applause for fred for showing why he is a thought leader and blog star! i hope many others will follow fred’s lead. (and not just linking to my site, there are plenty 911 truth/kook sites out there, find one you like or find interesting and join the peaceful revolution!)

  28. SallyFalkow

    And I agree with you too. RSS is way more than just a way to find news. Twitter is different. I get to see what other people find interesting. My news reader doesn’t do that – it never did. I guess I’m one of those geeks who thought PR people would see the value of RSS. Now that they’re being called news feeds perhaps I’ll have more luck 🙂

  29. RacerRick

    RSS readership within readers is close to dead.RSS as a content API is alive and well and if it dies we’re in trouble because there isn’t a specific, common version of XML to take up the slack. And… Long live Dave Winer.

  30. Max Kennerly

    That’s like saying 24-hour cable news will kill newspapers and magazines. Like saying radio will kill CD box sets.There is a big, big difference between sporadically monitoring a stream of information from a variety of sources of varying quality and diligently following the output of a particular publisher.I have moved most of my feeds/follows to Twitter, because I do not have an interest in seeing everything they produce, I merely want to generally know what they’re up to and catch some good material as it goes by.Nonetheless, for a few dozen of sources, I want to ensure I see at least the title of everything they post, to see if I want to read it or not, because they’re either directly in my interests or are simply of a very high quality.I don’t think RSS is dead for consumers, either, since it is relatively new. Keep in mind: a few years ago most people did not even know what a “blog” was, much less have any respect for it. Now, every major publisher — including newspapers like the New York Times and magazines like the Atlantic — hosts a variety of blogs. In time, it will not be unusual for people to share RSS bundles with one another, as Google Reader only recently enabled.

  31. Ben Atlas

    The other company (founder related to Twitter) that was bought by Google and left to stagnate is the 10 year old Blogger. Do they buy companies so that others would not have them? I mean there are many more examples, even for Google. Perhaps the scale is the problem but they must have known about the scale before the deal. In fact I recall there were some outages with Feedburner before Google bought them.But to the larger point of this post, RSS is very much alive for me. I would not know what to do with the web without it. (found this post and TechCrunch post via feedburner RSS)

    1. fredwilson

      blogger isn’t doing too badly under google’s ownershipthey have 10mm active bloggers on the platform nowcheck out this charthttp://siteanalytics.compet…

      1. Ben Atlas

        Oh, Fred, here we go again. I am talking quality and you are quantity. Yes Blogger is great and super popular platform. But it is astounding that it virtually had no new features for 10 years, sort of like Feedburner. Even more so because Blooger is a tool.

        1. fredwilson

          new features aren’t always goodlook at craigslist for exampleand they have added a ton of new functionality recently with read side gadgetsand i am hearing that write side gadgets are coming

          1. Ben Atlas

            Ok widget here and there. Blogger could have own the blogosphere by splitting into different versions. A simple version could have done what Tumblr and Posterous are trying to do. A premium version or freemium, etc could have tackled the WordPress space. If they were still an independent company, chances are they would have done exactly that.Considering that there is no income from Blogger to Google comparable with popularity of the platform (Feedburner problem as well).

  32. John Furrier

    Fred,Please don’t generalize about the tech blogosphere like you did. I (and my blog think RSS is alive and “enabling”. Sensational headines drive pageviews.If there is a conversation to be had it would be that “the lack of advertising products is killing quality publishing”. That’s a much better conversation to have because it advances innovation rather than distracting post about something not even an issue (the RSS is dead issue – is non starter).

    1. fredwilson

      i should have said “the leading tech blogs” instead of the tech blogospherecomplaint noted and i agree

      1. John Furrier

        thanks Fred glad you liked my tongue in cheek comment 🙂 no real complaint.Now that you brought up the word “leading tech blogs” – I would rephrase it as saying “leading tech blog in traffic” .What does “leading” mean? Many tech blog with different levels of traffic “lead” in different ways. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

  33. Mark Essel

    Fred Wilson’s blog is killing the rumors of RSS’s untimely demise 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      very funny

  34. reece

    Off the RSS topic, I agree with (and love) Fred’s comment that “It is rare that one piece of technology kills another, particularly when it is a successful technology that is widely used. Most deaths are self inflicted not brought on by others.”Though I would replace “technology” with “start-up.” One piece of tech can kill another – tapes/CDs/MP3s – but startup companies don’t kill each other just by showing up, it’s just that one of them decided to roll over and die.Continuous innovation is key.

  35. Michael Arrington

    “So when you read a post that says ‘XYZ is killing ABC’, I suggest you see it for what it is, a lame attempt to get pageviews because the author had nothing interesting to contribute on the topic.”Oh yeah thanks Fred, that’s not offensive or anything. And hey, you’re right. I’m managed to get this far without anything interesting to contribute by using linkbaiting and irrelevant headlines, so why stop now.I believe you understand the real discussion that’s going on, which has little to do with the underlying protocols used to move data around and much to do with the companies that are going to control the ways the data moves. I find that an interesting conversation, and it has centered on the “RSS is dead” conversation.Since I believe you know that, I think you’re being manipulative to suggest otherwise. Getting the people who don’t necessarily get the importance of the underlying conversation all wound up.

    1. arun kamath

      I have been trying to do what you do for a long time.

    2. William Mougayar

      Mike, As a neutral reader, it seems to me that a TC headline like this: “Oh, RSS Is Definitely Dead Now: Feedburner CEO Dick Costolo To Become Twitter COO” is more likely to “wind-up” people than “RSS is alive and well”. Did you really need to add “Oh, RSS is definitely Dead Now” to an otherwise useful story?The discussions on this blog are meaty and covering all aspects of the RSS debate, including protocols, companies, methods, etc. I’m not sure why you’re implying we’re not covering it as it should be, especially when contrasted to a TC comment stream which is often obfuscated by useless babble.

    3. David Semeria

      You’re right to ask questions about who controls the silos and the pipes.

    4. RichardF

      Actually I thought the headline in the context of the story was pretty funny but maybe that’s because I’m British and I like irony. The points you made about Dick Costello would appear to be pretty valid.However you are now reaping the backlash from Gilmore’s article which you allowed to be published and was utter horses**t

      1. stevegillmor

        For something that’s utter horseshit, it certainly continues to generate discussion since May.

        1. David Semeria

          Perhaps precisely because it *was* utter horseshit.

        2. RichardF

          I’d say it continues to provoke reaction (with the vast majority of comments ranging against your point of view) rather than generate discussion.If RSS is dead then why do you continue to use RSS on your website?

    5. kidmercury

      hahhahaa, i love it when this guy tries to roll up and act like he’s the honest journalist here. for the record, let us recall that fred wilson has boldly gone where no venture capitalist — and for that matter very few “journalists” like mikey — by linking to 9/11 truth/new world order sites (ironically in this very post)! meanwhile, mikey is a “journalist” who refuses to talk about how major web services censor 9/11 truth. moreover, his irresponsible and uninformed team refuses to give serious coverage to the proposed cybsercurity act, choosing to mock concerns about it instead. furthermore, remember that mikey also endorsed obama and mccain while calling himself a “hardcore libertarian” yet ignoring ron paul, a libertarian, in spite of the fact that 73% of his audience supported paul in the TC poll.of course, justice is always served. there is a reason why mikey’s gossip rag gets spam comments while fred’s revolutionary blog has engendered a real community. fred is the top dog up in this piece, mikey has to jump just to reach his knees. and of course needless to say most of us in the internet community are singing along to “jason calacanis and michael arrington, stop hating on howard lindzon and the truth” — the hot new track from kid mercury soaring to the top of the charts. remember the song is available for purchase in itunes and many other online retailers. 100% of proceeds from sales will be donated to

    6. fredwilson

      i didn’t say you had nothing interesting to say ever mikeyou have interesting things to say all the timebut that post was silly and ridiculousthe story was Dick Costolo was joining Twitterthat’s interesting on many levelsbut it has nothing to do with whether RSS is alive or deadand of course, RSS is alive and well and will be for a long long time

    7. sull

      So you clearly say that conversations focused on companies that are trying to control mass content sharing/distribution is more interesting to you…. are you also saying that it takes precedence over underlying tech and de-centralization efforts that balance the internet? They are both interesting discussions. But here is the advice I think you guys at TC are getting, whether you realize it or not….. Freely discuss how RSS alone was not and is not a business product. Point how where the disconnect happened between consumers and RSS consumption software/service. Talk about the good/bad influence that Feedburner had on RSS and publishers. Etc etc etc. Their are many intelligent and interesting angles and many do not hoist RSS up as some shiny persevering king. It’s cold tech. It’s extremely useful and pervasive. It doesnt want fame.Let’s face it. Gillmor was pushing buttons. You allow it because, well, TC is as much glossy gossip tech tabloidism as it is a serious publication. Actually, their is an obvious leaning to one side and I think every day more people realize which side that is. But hey, you’re having fun with it and you do inject value into the techosphere. the TC personality is what it is. And it aint for everyone. Maybe some feel let down. But nothing to lose sleep over.@sull

  36. Julien

    Can’t agree more with this post. I think a massive misunderstanding of what RSS is the origin of the problem : RSS is a technology, not a product.For too long RSS has been considered as “user-friendly” when it was obviously too complicated for many people to actually understand what it was and how we could use it. RSS readers are just the first tools which where built with RSS and yes, they failed at giving us timely information that matters to us, and Twitter certainly took that market share.I think on the contrary that RSS/Atom is going to “explode” more than ever. At a time where services interact more and more (every single site I am using now asks me for my information on another site), I think RSS is the only ubiquitous API. I added “sweetcron” to my personal blog ( and it only uses feeds to fetch my content from twitter, last, foursquare, github… etcNow, I think that RSS has a major flaw before becoming this “service-to-service” pipe : it’s polled : nobody can actually deal with billions of requests from thousands of services… RSS needs to be pushed and that is exactly what we’re doing at Superfeedr :

  37. Michael Arrington

    …and by the way, my post was about Dick Costolo, the CEO of RSS startup Feedburner, moving to Twitter as COO. So there was some context. and i don’t think page views would have been affected much no matter what the title given how interesting the story was.

    1. William Mougayar

      I knew what the topic was about, but you don’t think that “Oh, Now RSS is definitely Dead” added more fuel to the comment section? I just took a quick look and 90% of the comments were on Twitter vs. RSS.

      1. David Semeria

        Aw, you’ll be explaining how the cup and balls trick works next… 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      yup. that’s my point. that is an interesting story. but that’s not what you talked about.

  38. Liz Castro

    Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. What I don’t get is why there isn’t a decent app that I can use to follow both my Twitter stream AND my RSS feeds… (EventBox comes close)

    1. AntoneRoundy

      I subscribe to my Twitter stream in NetNewsWire, and it works fine. I suppose if I was “fauxlowing” 10 gajillion people (and never even skimming 99% of their tweets), a feed reader wouldn’t be able to keep up, but for me it works great.I think RSS’s biggest problems are that 1) feed readers don’t come pre-installed on computers (not counting web browsers, which are horrible feed readers), and 2) most feed readers are horrible. If NetNewsWire hadn’t been my first feed reader, I might never have “gotten” it. On Windows, the only decent feed reader I’ve ever tried is Feedreader, and even it needs a lot of re-configuration to do the job well (click my name for details).Google Reader has improved a lot since it was first released, but like And Beard says above, it still suffers from the inability to access password protected feeds, and the lack of a 3-pane view makes it much more cumbersome for quick skimming than NNW or Feedreader.

  39. alan p

    The Gartner Hype curve tells us that when all the hypemeisters abandon something, it starts to get useful, so I therefore agree with your hypothesis. I did of course blog on just this yesterday and will shamelessly pimp it here :)…

  40. anu

    I wrote about this back in January after a similar piece in RWW – what I wrote is just as valid now as it was back then.

  41. Malte Landwehr

    I totally agree with you, Twitter cannot kill RSS. Twitter is about consuming information right now, in the timespan of minutes (maybe hours if you follow <100 people). But my RSS readers gives me a quick overview of the articles published in blogs (divided in certain categories, etc). Twitter cannot do that.And by the way: 99% of my Twitter Accounts (and approximately 50% of all accounts) depend on RSS feeds to (automatically) post their tweets 😀

    1. David Semeria

      I think this is the best comment so far in the discussion, because it highlights the fundamental difference between the two concepts. Twitter has the recommendation advantage – the power of passed links, but it is also very transient in nature. RSS is (relatively) impersonal, but it has the advantage of completeness and permanence.These differences alone explain why there is space for both concepts – and by implication why the debate makes no sense.

  42. William Mougayar

    RSS is the 3rd most useful technology in Enterprise use of Web 2.0, after video sharing and blogs: How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0 – McKinsey Quarterly Sept 2009

  43. Terry Heaton

    My 2-cents. RSS as a consumer product hasn’t blossomed, because the media companies who could promote it to desired status dislike RSS except as a headline service to drive users back to their websites. I’ve been arguing this for years with media companies, and they just refuse to do full feeds. You’d think by now that they would’ve figured out how to monetize a full feed and truly unbundle their content, but until that happens, you’ll never hear anybody on TV say, “Subscribe to our RSS” feed, much less “You must have RSS!”

  44. Karen Christensen

    I’m an encyclopedia publisher who has a gut feeling that RSS could be vital in putting “knowledge where you need it” — which Twitter won’t. I appreciate this post because it encourages me to dig deeper into, yes, a business application.

  45. gardnersmitha

    RSS fails because you can’t use it unless you know how to use it.I was an avid Google Reader fan, and before that used NetNewsWire and the built-in Safari RSS reader. The technology is great, and being able to read things in once place and one format makes a BIG difference when trying to consume a lot of content.The problem with RSS (and I mean the user product here, not the technology, which I agree is alive and well) is three-pronged, as I see it:1) Hard to set up, nearly impossible for the average reader. I tried tirelessly to get my friends to start using Google Reader, but 9 out of 10 bailed because the value proposition wasn’t clear and the setup was far too complicated.2)It’s not social. The new Google Reader features kinda help, but they’re buried in settings, really confusing, and just not quite right.3) There’s no filter. I may want a few pieces of content from a lot of sites, but wading through 1000+ articles without any help to rank them isn’t plausible, efficient, or entertaining. It quickly becomes a chore to find the right content “nuggets” in flood of information.What we’re seeing with Twitter is that the social graph is becoming the way we filter and discover online content. But I’m hesitant to rely on entirely for my content. The “high volatility stocks (Twitter) vs. bonds (RSS)” analogy is great. What we need is a system or app that represents the mid-cap or mutual fund market – something that can give us some predictability in the content we receive but uses the power of the social graph to aid in filtration and discovery as well as facilitate meaningful discussion.I have a feeling someone’s building this…

  46. Andrew

    Yeah, now ‘blogs are dead’, it’s hack time for RSS.Today’s use of technology diversifies, rather than replaces. RSS collates, Twitter stimulates.

  47. Jason

    rss is in its infancy. i may not be welled versed with all the rss aggregators/readers out there, but what i’d like to see evolve is a reader/aggregator that is intelligent enough to pull specific content from feeds, kind of in the way certain twitter apps aggregate words from tweets. i don’t make time to read all the publications, yet i’ll skim the streams of many blogs for niches i am interested in. IE: Wired tends to give me my fix of darpa and advanced robotic tech, venturebeat for internet startup fundings, mashable for social media, TC for stuff that makes some posts here go (lol), etc, and if i could trade the skimming for something that really feeds me what i want without showing me multiple articles discussing the same content, id probably consume all my news with it because it would always be highlighting whats important to me.

    1. David Semeria

      Checkout created by a poster here called @egoboss

      1. Jason

        thank you! where ensembli pulls posts by keyword in title (impression from first run through), i am looking for something that pulls topic semantically, and i’d like to specify feeds for the system, and then have additional publications/articles recommended based on the choice of topic/publications i specify originally (just my personal preference – start to expect and enjoy specific formats).given that the link shared operates on rss, further proves rss use is evolving rather than being driven into the ground.

        1. David Semeria

          You’re welcome. Why don’t you ping Carl Griffith ( – I’m sure he’d be very interested in your feedback, especially if you said you came to him via AVC.

  48. Paul Jin

    RSS is an infrastructure and is not fit for the common user. RSS readers are confusing to the average user and must be better at aggregating and sorting RSS content.There is at least one good service I’m aware of that’s built upon RSS: Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop.

  49. ShanaC

    The party is just starting for these things. I’m closer to your average user for a lot of these technologies. I feel overwhlemed by my RSS reader. I susbscribe to too much, and need help fouldering and cutting down.A lot of this is due to the imperfection of the tools available to use these things are still terrible, and they aren’t clear on giving me what I want. I come here reguarly for example. I want to go to simimilar places of similar quanity with high levels of community- and I want to see, high levels of comments. That’s the ideal of an RSS feed. It should have an aggregator like quality to them with your regulars plus whatever else is related (and don’t tell me feedly, I have that, and I need to tag it, which I haven’t)As Mentioned above, twitter does have a feedback problem, you see it when you run searches for something specific (such as slab-serif fonts, you won’t get anything useful)A lot of this could be solved if we were further along the party. And knew how to place tags, and knew how to transmit it along things like feeds, and twitter, ect. it would be a lot easier to say something is replaced, when really we are dealing with first generation firehoses that we are all dipping our ceramic internet pots out of.

  50. Mark Carlson

    Fred, thank you so much for the post. Wonderful to have someone with a platform and the facts speaking the truth.

  51. Vaibhav Domkundwar

    I am so late on this thread but nevertheless just wanted to say I agree whole heartedly with both the points. One that RSS is not dead, will not die and is/will be a big part of the way data is accessed/pushed around for building valuable consumer services of the future. As a matter of fact, I am part of a stealth startup that is doing one such service. Second, that the tech blogosphere really should not make such bold statements without research/facts/supporting arguments. The analysis is flawed is one thing, but the fact that its read by million of users and then also found by others over a period of time is a huge problem associated with the way data is published without rating/policing over the web (thats a problem/opportunity in itself). A little bit of responsible writing will help all of us.

  52. ThatAdamGuy

    Man, this is one of the most generally on-point bits I’ve read this week:”So when you read a post that says ‘XYZ is killing ABC’, I suggest you see it for what it is, a lame attempt to get pageviews because the author had nothing interesting to contribute on the topic.”If you continue to post such insightful stuff, your blog is TOTALLY going to kill TechCrunch. Er, wait… :P(seriously, though, thank you for reminding people just how lame the “OMG, SHINY THING IZ KILLING [something else]” meme is.)

  53. JB Holston

    RSS is irrelevant … and thriving. It’s become the primary protocol for distributing not just news and info but … twitter! Also, our SocialSites business is booming — enterprise social computing on SharePoint. The EAI for Enterprise 2.0 is … RSS!

  54. Warren Whitlock

    “XXX is killing YYY” is usually a grab for attention. Discount them all, and learn to ignore those that make it a practice.

  55. Shyam Somanadh

    By the ‘RSS-is-dead’ logic, email had killed it even before RSS was born.As Pegleg would have said “O tempora o mores”

  56. John Furrier

    Hey Fred: I have to say that I really have been enjoying this thread. That being said time is a wonderful thing. In this age of attention verses substance (tech blogophere) here is a post I wrote three years ago.…There were actual conversations of substance in the tech blogosphere then and still now.Back in Sept 2006 the debate was is web 2.0 hype or real?: In which I wrote the post RSS is Web 2.0Here is some excerpts from 9/1 2006:”Web 2.0 is hyped and it is just as real as Web 1.0 but now it’s more than the Web now – it’s the Internet 2.0. Web 2.0 is similar to Web 1.0 with bubble tendencies and all. The key is the longevity that we will see with RSS. RSS is Web 2.0. “My final point aligns with most of the sentiment in this post here in 2009.I went on to say that “Disrputive enabler in any revolution is always rooted in a protocol. TCP/IP, HTTP, and RSS. TCP/IP gave us computing, networking, and Moores Law; HTTP gave us unlimited information access and browsing, and RSS is giving us access to all kinds of new benefits most of which will be born in the next 24 months – new media, personalization, access to new relationships, knowledge, inspiration, user choice, attention models, virtual spaces – second lives , virtual conferences ..etcRSS is Web 2.0 just like HTTP was Web 1.0. “Ok I’m done patting myself on the back. Fact is there are conversations like this happening all the time from people on the web, but most of the time quality people and content are washed out by the noise of the current attention network (blogosphere and twittershere).This post got my attention and the experience was valuable.

    1. fredwilson

      Protocols are disruptive. Very nice. I like that a lot