Another year, another attempt to kill RSS. Sigh.
That means I must once again bring truth to a cacophony of greed and hysteria, where repetitive games of not-really-farming and being not-really a gangster are valued more than anything other than Facebook, the platform where you not-really play said games.
This discussion cycle seems about as boring as I imagine Farmville to be, but we can’t ignore it. Because there are armies of media companies, developers and investors out there, with dollar signs in our eyes, who can’t wait to usher RSS off to the deadpool. For one reason and one reason only: they can’t make as much money if we read their content our way- in Google Reader or the equivalent app of our choice- as they can if they can force us to read it their way- at their site, complete with scads of browser-clogging tracking scripts and ads galore.
Let me say it another way.
Anyone- and I mean anyone- who is concerned with the end user experience should be actively promoting and supporting RSS. Unfortunately, like the very important but much maligned climate control movement, those who favor RSS as a medium for content management are on the wrong side of the ledger. They are waging war against those who have deeper pockets and much to lose.
I can understand why someone who thinks of our eyeballs only as currency would not want us to manage several hundred web site subscriptions and the related content from a single, convenient, web-based app. I can understand why big media sites want us to click wildly from page to page and site to site, all in the name of page views and ad serves. Hell, even Google, who makes mint serving ads on so many web sites, doesn’t have much incentive to promote RSS and its handler, the wonderful Google Reader.
In a recent post, Louis Gray sums up my view of online utopia:
I don’t want more places to play games. I don’t want more places that I can share photos with an increasing array of effects. I do want better filters so that the best stuff comes to me, from all networks, without my having to sift through the noise. That’s important to me, and part of what I am working to do.
That sounds a lot more like Google Reader than it does bouncing around between web sites, Twitter and Facebook. The only people who have a material interest in promoting RSS is us. The people, who want to control the manner in which we select and consume content.
Someone reading this is about to say, “but wait, what about Twitter!? Facebook! RSS is so last decade!” To them I say, put down the joint or the deposit slip (depending on which bias has possessed their senses). Twitter is, at the end of the day, nothing more that legitimized spam. It’s brilliant. But that’s what it is. Big media loves Twitter, because it allows them and their hoodwinked fence painters to relentlessly spam people with the equivalent of partial feeds, which lead the end user back- you guessed it- to the content provider’s web site. Complete with boggy scripts and ads-a-plenty.
Facebook is great. For conversing with your friends in far off places, or catching up with the freshman roommate you once hated. But in no way, shape or form is it the place to catalog, access and consume your news and other web-based content.
Again, only those with skin in the game will try to convince you otherwise.
The people can save RSS. And we should, because if we don’t, we’re the ones who will suffer. Not old or new media. Not Twitter or Facebook.
And certainly not those who see our eyeballs as currency.