Kam Black

The Many Virtues of RSS

No, it's not dead

Have I mentioned yet this week how much I love RSS? Yes?

Well, let me tell you again!

If you do a general search for RSS and what it's good for, you'll likely find a lot of results proclaiming that RSS is dead. That if you want to subscribe to someone, you can (and should) just follow them on social media.

But, you'll find just as many, if not more results for high-quality RSS readers, apps, and posts talking about what they found through RSS. And the key thing, these results are typically newer than the negative ones.

Friends, RSS is not dead. It it not owned or run by a company. Whether it is known by RSS or Atom, it is based on XML, an evergreen web standard and simply cannot die. It's works like a basic cipher - "Hey, I'll write my message like this." "Okay, I'll make sure my reader understands that format." That's all it is.

I don't care who you are, but if you frequent the Internet at all, there is SOMETHING you want to follow. Something out there you want to be in the loop on. Do you enjoy seeing a celebrity's posts on Twitter or Instagram? Do you like watching YouTube videos from a particular channel? (Or two, or five, or..) Maybe you follow a webcomic or two, perhaps a blog or a news site. Each of these services do have ways for you to follow, or subscribe, or whatever that platform calls it. But wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to go to 20 different sites, just to see if there's anything new?

Well, RSS has been solving that problem for about 20 years now. Seriously, most,of not all, of those example above, have an RSS feed associated with them. Take the URLs from those and put them in a common reader. Now you are literally going to just one place to check for updates, no matter what platform it started on.

What if it doesn't work?

Alright, so not EVERYTHING uses RSS. Twitter and Instagram don't do that natively. However, just a quick Google search away you'll find services like webstagram and twitrss.me that crawl these platforms and create their own feeds for you to follow. And if all else is totally lost, there's services like feed43.com, that lets you paste the URL of a website, and lets you point at the parts of the page you want to watch. You get a feed that updates whenever that part of that site changes.

The point is, there are ways. And with RSS readers as a whole getting better and better, I can't see RSS going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the reader I use, Feedbin, has a feature that lets you use their email instead of yours when signing up for a newsletter. Then you get the newsletter as a feed alongside everything else.

RSS has been a massive timesaver for me. As of today I follow about 40 different company and personal blogs, 5-10 podcasts, almost 100 different webcomics, a few news sites, a couple of Google search alerts, some Twitter/Insta accounts, loads of newsletters, and goodness knows what else. But my email is clean. I can stay on top of everything because it's all in one place. And I can do it all in minutes rather than hours.

I f***ing love RSS.