Reclaiming RSS

“Before Twitter, before algorithmic timelines filtered our reality for us, before surveillance capitalism, there was RSS: Really Simple Syndication … As we move away from the centralised web to the peer web, it’s time to rediscover, re-embrace, and reclaim RSS.”

@aral RSS didn't go anywhere

2008 internet still exists, people just let themselves be blinded by a shiny birdsite. reader alternatives cropped up almost immediately after Google pulled the plug.

the real problem is that foss is really bad at marketing imo

@xj @aral Right. And that FLOSS doesn't even remotely compete here anymore: People using Twitter or Facebook don't want to choose a certain software - they use a turn-key service instead that of course in some way relies on bits and bytes but has its advantage in *just* being available without any learning or administration effort. From that point of view, FLOSS that requires you to think about hosting, backup, availability, ... is just set to lose. :(

@aral Should we take on reclaiming #RSS, or should we rather try focussing on technologies such as #activitypup to replace #RSS? For what I remember, one of the total drawbacks of #RSS was that it wasn't in any way interactive whereas Twitter and related platforms allowed for comments and discussion starting with day one.

@z428 ActivityPub isn’t a replacement for RSS (it is orders of magnitude more difficult to implement). We can embrace both (and more – like

@aral I know. :) Just wondered whether, in an #activitypub world, #RSS is still required - except for being a "simpler" standard, does it provide any features that can't be done with #activitypub as well? I wonder because right now I see a lot of blogs moving away from dynamic web hostings and quite some of them end up offering #RSS for syndication - and embedding platform such as #disqus because comments.. ;)

@z428 Yeah surveillance devices like Disqus are a problem. I see RSS existing alongside. Doesn’t have to be either/or. Well suited for news.

@aral The techie in me agrees wholeheartedly. Looking at end users however (the crowd that still mostly remains on Twitter and seems quite hesitant when it comes to changing tools), I wonder whether too many alternative technical approaches at hand are a benefit or more of a hazard. #fediverse seems a viable, agreeable solution so why not fully focussing on that at least for a while? ;)

@aral @z428

The advantage with RSS is that's it's just a file and can trivially be done with a site generator and a static web host. AP requires a running application that distributes the posts to the followers, the equivalent of RSS+WebSub.

I would love for there to be implementations of the RSS+WebSub-equivalent subset of AP for a whole bunch of languages.
@aral @z428 But I would also love for our OStatus-compatible microblogs to never stop supporting OStatus, and start supporting Atom without WebSub, like Friendica does.


@notclacke @aral Sounds valid. Well, maybe at the heart of things, I'd like to see a *meaningful* mix of protocols providing an end-user experience as good and well-integrated as somewhat possible (Twitter and Facebook are the benchmark here) while reducing the need to make decisions between different implementations of the same "use case" to a bare minimum. There's "always more than one way to do it", but there shouldn't be too many... ;)

@z428 @aral With Disqus, Google+ and using an URL as the key for a discussion, all we need would be an RSS reader, that implements these discussion sites. And these sites allowing access to the comments from multiple accounts (e.g. if the website owner also implemented Disqus already - don't know if you could still see the conversations from a different account).

@aral yes, #Twitter , in terms of functionality ... it's just " Commenting  #RSS with asteroids " ?


Yes! Starting to see more people talking about the usefulness of RSS.

@aral Thanks for your post! I think it speaks to the best part of web culture how RSS is still around depsite the best efforts of large social media platforms to kill it.

Isn't it still good practice to put a <link> in your HTML too, to let RSS clients know where your feed is?

@edsu Yes, I’ll update the post to mention that; thanks :)

@aral Whao ! You exactly wrote the post I was thinking about. Do you mind if I translate (part of) it (into French) (with due credits of course :-) )

@Bromind Of course, I’d be honoured. All my content is under Creative Commons ShareAlike :)

@aral I've spent a bit too much time over the past few days writing a CSS sanitiser that reads from rsstail (using my newsboat url list)andfeeds xrootconsole, the xscreensaver phosphor hack, or a terminal, with ANSI highlighting and other bits.

Very hackish awk.


We didn't rss. Publisher did.

They want stats, ads, targeted ads, private data & engagement. All this stuff required their users to move from rss to social networks.

They first put only part of the content in the RSS then completely removed it after they could push content to their user smartphones.

Websites without ads or paywall have not stop providing full RSS. Why don't do read these ?

@aral Really enjoyed your article. It's dawning on me email newsletters are like a really crappy implementation of #rss.

@aral Firefox still has the RSS feed button, it's just not in the default UI.

Also some (mostly commercial) sites do deliver tracking pixels linked from their RSS feeds, which kinda defeats the idea of not being tracked...

Some still publish their feeds through FeedBurner, providing usage information for the Google surveillance machine. Fat RSS feeds do create quite a bit of traffic on popular sites, as each client reloads the full file on each access... No real incremental updates...

@aral I find it mildly ironic that I am reading this blog post on my seed of your #dat site instead of using my #RSS feed reader, which I use for every other blog I follow.

@aral Great post! Although Firefox allows you to extract the rss link from any page which has it. On newer FFs, just click on Hamburger menu -> Customize and pull the "Subscribe" button to the toolbar.

@aral Feels ironic you posted this right after I took my first steps in supporting RSS in Odysseus.

Good irony though.

@aral have you considered using a clearer term than "RSS"? For me, I know when you say "RSS" you're really talking about a group of related syndication technologies that include Atom, but I wonder if others reading this without the historical context might come to the mistaken conclusion that deploying more non-Atom feed setups is a good idea.

@aral More like others reclaiming it. I never left RSS. 😉

@aral The things that are happening now like ActivityPub, DAT etc reminds me of the semantic web days with PubSubHubbub, Microformats, Atom/RSS, FOAF(+SSL) etc but with newer technologies. Seems that the silo monopoly that replaced the semantic web is being demolished. Interesting times!

@aral @Gargron With a bit of Bayes-filtering and Mastodon, an RSS-reader could be a killer app for news reading.

@aral RSS is solid.
Rediscovering RSS is like when people are done falling over each other to build Slack integration for everything and someone is going to mention that everything could have hooked into XMPP just fine

@mjjzf @aral That's a good point actually: It could have been done for XMPP. But it unfortunately hasn't. Same about the desktop UI or the usability for, say, ad hoc group chats or sharing and finding inline media. A load about Slack is about trivial, obvious usability stuff. It all could have done with XMPP too, but Slack *did* it. And so a load of people use Slack (where a load of these features are just there) rather than XMPP (where a load of these features *could* be there). :(

@aral very nice read.

And I couldn’t agree more on the full fat RSS thing. I use RSS to read your content in a convenient and lean way, I simply unsubscribe from summary only feeds.


foolish mortal. I can has rss manipulation before it feeds you!

#analytics #privacyraping


@aral I was an RSS junkie and I saw the writing on the wall when I noticed sites trying to find ways to monetize their feeds. Yuck.

@aral algorithmic timelines are terrible. I can understand and algorithm which puts ad into my timeline, but not new timeline each time I refresh the page. I think, it is done to engage user to click more, but jiz, it is so creepy.

@aral i’ve never abandoned RSS. In fact, it is still my number one infosource (if i found something new to follow i just add its feed to my reader). I like to “curate” ( =choose:) myself what i read and i like to get the content from their source. rss lives! :)

I prefer Atom but on general you are correct.

> surveillance capitalism
Replace "capitalism" with "statism" or "socialism" and then you'll be factually correct.
@dtluna @aral The fact is that is that it is profitable to collect everybody's information and sell it to advertisers. Surveillance capitalism is an apt description.

The fact that states can also buy or confiscate the information is an additional threat on top of that.

@mjog @aral Let's reclaim both. I don't think the distinction is meaningful compared to the utility of the base value afforded by either.

@aral Just cannot agree more. RSS is a learning tool I have been touting since...well, the beginning. My eldest daughter is the only one I have succeeded in proseletyzing to the cause. I use #inoreader, but have tried them all and most are just the progeny of Google Reader.

@aral IMO the culprit was Google, centralizing the experience with Google Reader (which then was killed in favour of Hangouts/Google+)

@aral ... and, looking at my blog roll, a load of people who used weblogs and RSS in the early 2000s gradually moved to Twitter because it provided something weblogs, pingbacks, RSS and comments never managed to provide: An easy way of publishing content, same as an easy way of interacting with users (as in discussions and comments). We should not re-embrace or reclaim RSS. We rather should look at why quite some people gave up on these technologies in order to improve them... 😉

@Aral Balkan @Kristian / z428 @Falgn0n 🔮 @Display Name

RSS is a quagmire, both legally and in terms of specification. Really, it's a bloody mess and I don't think it can be resolved. Use Atom. You can call this RSS if you want (many people do), but ATOM is a proven standard specification without all the individual personality cults and technical issues and legal issues involved.

Companies stopped providing RSS/ATOM feeds about ten years ago because viewing content on remote sites did not bring people back to your site for targeted advertising. This is why all the major providers stopped supporting it.

My own projects consume 3 different flavours of RSS (and Atom and ActivityStreams) but only emit ATOM and ActivityStreams. I'm hoping this year we can finally drop RSS <= 1.0, but 2.0 is a much larger mess and it really has to go. Let it die, please. Use Atom.

@mike Actually I always loved AtomPub (the whole APP protocol, not just atom as a feed flavour) which unfortunately never seems to have gained ground or support in any substantial way but that's possibly another story. My problem with both, however: RSS and Atom provide access to content. APP provided access to content and to creating content. But neither of these actually integrates a "backchannel", feedback and communication just the way Twitter or the #fediverse does.
@falgn0n @aral

@aral do you provide an atom or json feed as well? I rely on RSS everyday but is soo messy.

Been loving playing with the ease of an h-feed on all the #IndieWeb sites.

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