Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Why RSS Matters

You are Google. Your responsibility is to sell clicks and eyeballs to literally the highest bidder. When the best content is not on your domain, you do two things:

  1. Build a platform that encourages longer form writing than Twitter, and more thoughtful audience filtering than Facebook, and stupidly easy sharing.
  2. Kill Reader, the one product that encourages you to discover and share content outside this new platform.

Profit is derived from control1. RSS interferes with controlling not just access to content, but the content itself. A content-sharing protocol not in their direct control is incongruous with their business model in the same way a true democracy hampers megalomaniac politicians. The web’s open API cannot be throttled, manipulated and mediated like a proprietary API.

Google are not alone in their dismissal of RSS. Twitter has been removing RSS capabilities for years. Facebook, like Google+, doesn’t have RSS at all. Tumblr ceased the ability to import RSS entirely. Media morons have been proclaiming RSS IS DEAD for years not because it is dead, but because they’ve swallowed the PR swill of those who won’t support it.

Facebook, Google and Twitter are designed silos. They are vassals to advertisers. They sell you.

The more they reject RSS, the more important it becomes.

Our vast network of independent URLs is the antithesis to the content-monoculture these companies seek to erect. With every brick that goes up around their walled gardens, another means of maintaining an open, connected net is closed. This follows the pattern of a capitalist ecosystem: innovators innovate, a select few build empires on top of those innovations, and those at the top then seek to empirically control the market.

While humble in scope and even more humble in adoption, RSS is a rock in their boots. RSS connects us without them. No matter our publishing platform, we can all boil our content down to a single common tongue. That middle ground has no place in organizations scrambling for the high ground.

RSS is an equalizer, not an advantage. An idea, not a patent. An open hand, not a secret handshake.

1 Just ask Apple.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Sunday March 17, 2013

Big shock to Google’s killing Reader. I’ve always get a nice healthy feed of RSS with my breakfast. But I’ve just understood FB n TW’s perspective to why RSS would not work for them. Interesting.

Michael Paradise

wrote the following on Tuesday March 19, 2013

Good stuff. I agree with you. But what’s the best alternative?

A convenient method to freely share and connect people with their “right people” definitely shouldn’t be corrupted… but the ever-present profit motive is always bound to infringe that right on the web’s largest of platforms – unless our economic system itself changes.