Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 24, 200910:30 PM

Twitter Is Going To Kill RSS

Information overload. We're all dealing with it. We were dealing with it when there were only a handful of publishers and producers. Now, everyone is a publisher and producer.

We used to be able to count on our RSS readers to filter out the noise and ensure that only the content we, specifically, chose would make its way on to our radars, but - for the most part - we're all just too overwhelmed (see the post below: This Conversation Is A Blip). So much great content, so little time and not enough real filters and aggregators to really sort the wheat from the chaff.

Who can we count on?

We can count on humans (or each other). We trust our "friends" (however deep or shallow you want to go on that word). Try this little and simple experiment: ignore your news reader for one full day and only pay attention to what people on Twitter are talking about, sharing and linking to. Then, go back and compare. Did you miss any huge stories by not following your reader, or did you find more different and engaging pieces of content through Twitter that you would have never experienced had you only been focused on your own, self-initiated, feeds?

Amazing isn't it? 

The trick to making this even more powerful is to follow and engage with the "right people" - those who really do share similar values to you and those who are really engaging (and engaged) on Twitter. Odds are, you have tons of news feeds but don't have the appetite or time to filter and aggregate. Imagine not having to subscribe to every episode of a particular Podcast, but instead being informed by your own peer group which episodes were worth checking out (and which ones to ditch)? How much would that change the way you engage with content?

What's going on here?

Unlike the promise of virtual worlds (remember Second Life?), Twitter is doing a whole lot more than showing us the value of content in 140 characters or less. It's showing us much more than how each and every one of us can report (and create) the news. Twitter is not just a technology or communications platform. Twitter is actually a great human-powered RSS machine. You can follow the smartest people out there and follow what's on their radar.

Does this mean that Twitter is going to kill RSS?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Taylor Marek
    Mitch Joel

    Hmm, interesting point to ponder. I kind of rely on my twitter followers to alert me to things that would usually come down in my rss reader. So in a way my twitter followers have become a rss feed in itself, but it is more reliable then my rss reader.

    Reply
  • The mainstream internet user doesn't even know what RSS is yet, so it's hard to say it's dead. It's hardly even alive from an adoption standpoint. We (early adopters) live in a bubble and tend to forget what it's like on the outside. It's every bit as convenient, and amazing, as it was the day it was created. All it would take is an amazing interface for it to come straight back to the chattershpere.

    I think Twitter is serving another use all together. I use it every day - I follow 240 people (650 followers), and read literally every tweet. It's amazingly instant, and rewarding in an odd kind of way.

    Likewise, I read about 1,000 RSS feed titles, 50 or so summaries, and maybe 15 or so full stories. I "star" a lot, and share too.

    Is RSS dead? Not at all. It's more alive than ever, to me.

    Reply
  • Posted by Andy M.
    Mitch Joel

    I love Twitter. I really do. I've discovered some solid content thanks to the service, and I'm thankful for those who forward useful links.

    There's a huge problem with clutter on Twitter, though. Not just "overwhelmed with content"-type clutter, but downright useless clutter. It may be fun to glance at, but it doesn't replace my RSS feeds.

    If I want a human-filtered system, though, I prefer to use aggregating services like and . With the latter, I don't need to follow anyone in order to see what's buzzing within a particular topic. (Less spam, too!)

    Reply
  • Posted by Andy M.
    Mitch Joel

    For clarification, I was referring to popurls and Delicious in my above comment.

    Made the mistake of enclosing the names in angled brackets to make them stand out... d'oh.

    Reply
  • Posted by Matt Fogel
    Matt Fogel

    I don't think Twitter will kill RSS any more than it's killing blogs. Its existence just helps highlight the strengths of each medium.

    Twitter is great for short bursts of real-time news and conversations because of its push-like messaging platform. I could argue that if I close my RSS reader for a day and sit on some of the IRC channels I've frequented for the last 15 years, I wouldn't miss any major stories either (in between the chatter), but if I get busy and stop reading for a few hours, it's unlikely that I'll scroll back up to see what I missed.

    An RSS reader, on the other hand, is much better suited for playing a little catch-up and receiving longer content and reading it at your leisure.

    I'm sure it won't be long before something (Google Wave?) comes in and pulls the two together, though.

    Reply
  • Posted by Promod Sharma
    Mitch Joel

    RSS is yet another confusing acronym. No wonder the masses didn't "get" it. No wonder there wasn't media buzz.

    I rarely read my RSS feeds because the process takes too long. It's more convenient to get content for the feeds that really matter by email or Twitter.

    Twitter has effectively replaced RSS for me. For example, I came to this post because of a tweet from Joel.

    Reply
  • Posted by Promod Sharma
    Mitch Joel

    Sorry. I meant to say "Mitch", not "Joel".

    mental note: don't Comment past bedtime!

    Reply
  • Posted by buzz
    Mitch Joel

    Twitter is cool with the tech innovators, perhaps they're the only ones who've latched on to RSS as a way to gather news.

    In reality, only 1% of Canadians are on Twitter. If it's these 1% that are using RSS as well, then it MIGHT kill it, but in reality the world is all about Facebook.

    As much as the technologically savvy don't see it, Facebook is the power play here, not Twitter.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris
    Mitch Joel

    This comment is not related to the initial blog question however Information Overload when using the internet is a concern.

    Would the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) loop be a good concept to follow when trying to filter information effectively?

    Reply
  • Posted by Marty Thornley
    Mitch Joel

    I found this post through Google Reader.

    If no one read the original article (through the actual site or the RSS) there would be nothing to Tweet about or link to.

    One of the best aspects of Twitter is the search, which can be subscribed to with... RSS.

    The ease and versatility of RSS means it is not going anywhere.

    @Michael Sitarzewski has a great point. Most people still don't know what RSS or google reader is and in fact... Twitter search is what is making me teach people how to use google reader to subscribe to search results for research. Twitter could be the best thing to happen to RSS.

    Reply
  • Posted by Susan Murphy
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with Michael - and with buzz. Most people aren't even using these tools. My Mom has one RSS feed inside her Yahoo home page. Mine. Because she asked me to put it there. And now she can't remember how to put other ones there.

    The average user is not about push content yet - either for lack of understanding or not wanting/needing to change their current surfing habits.

    If it's lack of understanding (which I suspect, based on the habits of my students and parents) perhaps we need to look at the way feeds are aggregated and come up with solutions that help simplify this process even more for people? I don't know. Just a thought.

    Personally, I get probably 90% of my local, national and world news from Twitter now. I rarely go to the home page of a news site unless I'm searching for something specific. I still do use GReader, but you are right Mitch - I will go a few days sometimes between visits there, since most of my favourite blogs (yours included!) are promoted through Twitter.

    Reply
  • Posted by Stuart Foster
    Mitch Joel

    RSS will only die when it can be incorporated into the sidebar of Tweetdeck or on the Twitter homepage itself. For those of us with a massive flow of information? I need my RSS. It keeps me sane.

    Reply
  • Posted by Sir BuzzKillington
    Sir BuzzKillington

    I couldn't disagree more. Why are "guru's" so quick to claim the demise of an incumbent technology? Not all new technologies or methods kill off the preciding one, but more likely cause it's existing role to change...

    Will Twitter kill RSS? No. Will it take away from its marketshare? Overtime, yes, but that doesn't mean it will "kill it" and RSS will suddenly cease to exist. Furthermore, Twitter is still used by a relatively small majority of Internet users, most of which would be classified as early adopters who are moderate to advanced Internet users. As a "voice of the masses", it still is over-representative of a relatively small group of people. RSS is still widely unknown among mainstream Internet users and the concept behind it is still something they need to be educated on.

    Also, by only following and engaging "the right people - those who really do share similiar values to you...", you are most likely limiting yourself to the opinions of one ideology... where the info you recieve becomes self-reinforcing... However strongly we may disagree with someone's opinion, listening to the devil's advocate never stifles our own opinions but helps to expand on them. As is evident in this very post, even though I don't subscribe to the view of Mitch's post, it has forced me to consider a concept I previously would have not thought of before...

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Royal
    Mitch Joel

    I agree 100% with Sir BuzzKillington. A purely Twitter-based (i.e. peer-based) information system would be life in a bubble.

    The web and RSS already enable bubble thinking. We can drink from a fire hose of information and never hear a contrary opinion. What we need to do is avoid limiting ourselves to "those who really do share similar values to you."

    As to the original question: Will Twitter kill RSS? My bet is on hybridization. Twitter, RSS, Facebook, blogs... the Next Big Thing will be a fusion of these disparate tools. Perhaps it will be an outgrowth of Google Wave.

    Reply
  • Posted by John A Robb
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think it will kill RSS. They serve different purposes. At least for me they do. I don't always want to be reading what is going on right now, or I might just be busy. RSS allows me to read what I want when I want. Trying to read tweets from yesterday or last week is not a lot of fun.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ari Herzog
    Mitch Joel

    Echoing bits from several commenters above me, I frequently hear from people who ask me to define 1) Twitter; and 2) RSS.

    There may be a critical mass of people using (or hearing about) Twitter but that doesn't mean they know about its uses other than writing they are eating sandwiches and taking walks, aka what they are doing.

    The mass of people who don't know about RSS are typically those who don't read blogs. I met someone this week who was confused about what a blog was and asked for a definition.

    When you consider I stumbled across this blog post of yours, Mitch, via a feed reader is indicative RSS isn't dying anytime soon.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    A shovel can't to the work a backhoe can do; it's a question of volume.

    While I can see what Sit BuzzKillington is getting at, however, I don't think this is worth simplifying so thoroughly. RSS is useful, but like any tool, different people use it in different ways, the same goes for Twitter.

    At the end of the day, Someone will keep RSS, just like Someone will troll through links and associated blogs, and lots of Someones will spend time reading follow-me articles, because in order for the news to make Twitter in the first place, Someone has to tweet about it. And if Someone is tweeting about it, they read it first.

    You don't get amny benefit from second-hand news, without a first-hand to present it to you. Twitter is second-, if not third=hand in nature.

    Reply
  • Posted by janno
    janno

    Just think Twitter users who are refreshing their RSS feeds in order to come up with the latest and greatest. Other thing is that you avoid all the noise that you usually have on Twitter.

    Reply
  • This is not about platforms, technology, early adopters or social media "gurus"... this is about usage.

    If more and more people are getting their "daily fix" from their Twitter community over their own RSS feeds, won't this change the game just a little bit more?

    Reply
  • Posted by Sir BuzzKillington
    Sir BuzzKillington

    the way the title of the post is constructed "Twitter IS Going To Kill RSS", it kind of implies platform vs. platform...

    But I see what you are saying; instantaneous word-of-mouth communication vs. a (somewhat) segmented 1-way distribution model. Both platforms are pushing out information, but the fact that Twitter is also an engagement AND distribution platform does change it up.

    and as per the "guru" status, a book deal automatically elevates you to that level, :)

    Reply
  • I'm only a guru is someone else says I am one. I'm not a fan of the "self-anointed" gurus.

    Reply
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