Every couple weeks, some industry observer or blogger declares that something that most people know well is dead, and generates a lot of page hits. Whether it’s the iPhone, Microsoft, the mainframe, or Paul, this is a popular meme.
More power to them, but I find it getting kind of old. Technological stuff rarely completely disappears, and takes a very long time to do so when it does. I still am surprised when I talk to people waiting for a fax. I haven’t gotten a fax in years, but many salespeople still keep one ear cocked for the sound of a signed contract rolling in. I had a fax number on my business card for awhile, but had no idea how I would actually receive it if anyone ever sent me one. Some industries still even use telexes.
The latest victim of the X is Dead meme is RSS. Steve Glimor from TechCrunch IT writes that RSS is being replaced by services like Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed. His position is echoed by other writers like Jemima Kiss of the Guardian.
I can certainly see how the context and recommendations provided by these services are more useful than the indiscriminate feeds that come in through an RSS reader. if someone retweets a link, I am more likely to be interested in it, especially if I know and respect the person retweeting. An RSS reader just scoops up everything that comes from a particular feed. I do indeed spend far less time browsing posts through Google Reader since I started using Twitter, but I suspect that has as much to do with needing to get work done as anything else.
I can’t see RSS really dying any time soon, however. Rather than dying in a sudden expiring fit, most technologies just get other stuff layered on top. We continue to use them, at least for awhile, but in different ways. RSS will continue as the best way to monitor what we know we must read; as the best way to download a bunch of posts to read while in a plane or on the train; to track what is happening in internal applications and other software that publishes using RSS. Someone clever will mashup an RSS reader and a Twitter client to combine their benefits.
RSS might be coughing a little bit, but it ain’t dead yet.
I will be talking about some of the new ways to communicate that are getting layered on top of what you’ve already got at Portal, Content and Collaboration conference in Orlando, Florida June 8-10.