<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- ========================================== kroc camen of camen design ============================================= -->
<title>blog · RSS Is Dying Being Ignored, and You Should Be Very Worried</title>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/design/design.css" />
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="/blog/rss" title="Just blog" />
<link rel="canonical" href="/blog/rss_is_dying" />
<!-- =================================================================================================================== -->
<header>
	<h1><a href="/" rel="index">
		Camen Design
	</a></h1>
	<nav><ul>
		<li><a href="/">all</a></li>
		<li><a href="/projects">projects</a></li>
		<li><a href="http://forum.camendesign.com">forum</a></li>
	</ul><ul>
		<li><a href="/quote/">quote</a></li>
		<li><a href="/writing/">writing</a></li>
		<li><a href="/blog/" rel="tag">blog</a></li>
		<li><a href="/photo/">photo</a></li>
		<li><a href="/code/">code</a></li>
		<li><a href="/art/">art</a></li>
		<li><a href="/link/">link</a></li>
		<li><a href="/poem/">poem</a></li>
		<li><a href="/audio/">audio</a></li>
	</ul><ul>
		<li><a href="/web-dev/">web-dev</a></li>
		<li><a href="/annoyances/">annoyances</a></li>
		<li><a href="/eve/">eve</a></li>
		<li><a href="/code-is-art/">code-is-art</a></li>
		<li><a href="/inspiration/">inspiration</a></li>
		<li><a href="/windows/">windows</a></li>
		<li><a href="/gift/">gift</a></li>
		<li><a href="/gaming/">gaming</a></li>
		<li><a href="/mac/">mac</a></li>
		<li><a href="/osnews/">osnews</a></li>
		<li><a href="/c64/">c64</a></li>
		<li><a href="/linux/">linux</a></li>
	</ul>
	<a rel="previous" href="/blog/plugin_without">
		older article →
	</a><a rel="next" href="/blog/rss_a_reply">
		← newer article
	</a></nav>
</header>
<!-- =================================================================================================================== -->
<article><header>
	<!-- date published or updated -->
	<time pubdate datetime="2011-01-03T20:34:00+00:00">
		<sup>8:34<abbr>pm</abbr> • 2011</sup>
		<abbr title="January">Jan</abbr> 3
	</time>
	<!-- categories -->
	<ul>
		<li><a href="/blog/rss_is_dying" rel="bookmark tag">blog</a></li>
		<li><a href="/web-dev/rss_is_dying">web-dev</a></li>
		<li><a href="/annoyances/rss_is_dying">annoyances</a></li>
	</ul>
	<!-- licence -->
	<small>
		<a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_GB">c</a>
		share + remix
	</small>
</header>
<!-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ -->
<section>
<h1>RSS Is <del>Dying</del> <ins>Being Ignored</ins>, and You Should Be Very Worried</h1>
<aside>
<p>
		<strong>Update:</strong> I have now written a follow up article <a href="/rss_a_reply">here</a>.
</p><p>
		Also,
	<a href="http://teckee.fr/2011/01/03/rss-est-mourrant-et-vous-devriez-vous-en-inquieter-traduction-de-camendesign-com/" rel="external">here’s
	</a> a French translation of the previous version of this artice, kindly done by zar / teckee.
</p>
</aside>
<p>
	<strong>RSS makes it <em>possible</em> for me to check 100s of sites a day.</strong> I only actually implicitly go
	and read two, everything else goes through the RSS reader. If I didn’t have RSS then I wouldn’t bother keeping
	an eye on that many sites in the first place. Because me and you—dear technical readers—don’t have to suffer
	that routine anymore, it’s not reason that everybody else should. Bringing all the news updates straight to the
	user every day is a great killer feature that vendors should be waving from the fronts of their home pages! Browser
	vendors talk about their software helping users get the most out of the great ’Web; right next to “browsing”,
	RSS should be the second most important feature of browsers!
</p>
<blockquote>
	<p>
		Imagine for example that on the Chrome home page, where sites you visit often appear, Chrome also was
		following the RSS of these sites in the background, and listing new news items for those sites on the home
		page, all without you having to do anything.
	</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
	Google Chrome has no RSS reader. It doesn’t even try to render RSS, or even help the user with it in any way. It
	gives less of a crap than a <a href="http://google.com/images?q=Serge+Gainsbourg" rel="external">French man smoking
	a cigarette in public</a>.
</p><p>
	Mozilla will deal the final blow that kills RSS off. In Firefox 4.0, there will be
	<a href="https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=578967" rel="external">no RSS button on the toolbar by
	default</a> (it has been moved to the bookmarks menu). Mozilla outright
	<a href="https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=597932" rel="external">refuse to listen</a> to their users
	on this matter.
</p><p>
	The reason for this is that
	<a href="https://heatmap.mozillalabs.com/mozmetrics/" rel="external">statistically</a>, only 3%–7% of users use
	the RSS button on the toolbar. If not enough people use it already, then how many less people are going to use it if
	it’s not there by default? How many regular users customise their toolbar to add a button they barely use?
</p><p>
	Mozilla’s mistake here is to associate low usage with user dis-interest. If people don’t use it, the feature
	must not be necessary…? To my mind if the feature is not being used it’s because it’s badly designed and needs
	a rethink. The majority of users are missing out on a wealth of information because it is currently too time
	consuming to be regular in their habits. If RSS were easier (or even automatic) to discover and use, it would save
	them hours browsing every day!
</p><p>
	The problem is the interface, not the technology. Let’s face it, RSS sucks and browser vendors care about it
	almost as little as they do about CSS printing (hello 10+ year old bugs!)
</p>
<img src="/blog/rss_is_dying/rss.png" alt="RSS Icon" width="128" height="128" />
<p>
	What does this symbol mean? How many regular users could name this symbol? None, I’d wager. If they know that this
	symbol means “RSS”, then what does “RSS” mean; how many users can explain that? Users are already adverse to
	clicking things they don’t understand so what do they think this symbol will do to their computer when it is not
	obvious a) what it is, and what it stands for, or b) what happens when it’s clicked? Will a dialogue box open?
	Will it ask questions? Will it print something? Will it ask for a name and password?
</p><p>
	This symbol gives absolutely zero clue as to why it is present, what functionality it represents and how the user is
	supposed to use it.
</p><p>
	The browser RSS button is the worst piece of UI since 2004.
</p><p>
	This is a serious problem because a regular user understands Facebook and Twitter better than they understand RSS,
	and when browser vendors push RSS so far to the sidelines, companies will respond by replacing RSS with Twitter and
	Facebook accounts.
</p><p>
	If RSS isn’t saved now, if browser vendors don’t realise the potential of RSS to save users a whole bunch of
	time and make the web better for them, then the alternative is that I will <em>have</em> to have a Facebook account,
	or a Twitter account, or some such corporate-controlled identity, where I <em>have</em> to “Like” or
	“Follow” every website’s partner account that I’m interested in, and then have to deal with the privacy
	violations and problems related with corporate-owned identity owning a list of every website I’m interested in
	(and wanting to monetise that list), and they, and every website I’m interested in, knowing every other website
	I’m interested in following, and <em>then</em> I have to log in and check this corporate owned identity every day
	in order to find out what’s new on other websites, whilst I’m advertised to, because they are only interested in
	making the biggest and the best walled garden that I can’t leave.
	<br /><br />
	<strong>If RSS dies, we lose the ability to read in private</strong>
</p>
<ul>
	<li>
		<p>We lose the ability for one website we read to not know what other websites we read</p>
	</li><li>
		<p>
			We lose the ability for a website operator to be in control of what he advertise to his users,
			rather than having no control over the aggregator’s “value add”. If Facebook, Twitter and
			Google are the ones making the money on adverts attached to another website’s content, then
			where does that leave the website owner to pay for producing the content?
		</p>
	</li><li>
		<p>
			We lose the ability for websites to push updates to us on their own terms and infrastructure,
			rather than through closed APIs and flavour-of-the-month platforms. A website should be free to
			operate on the web without the requirement of additional unwanted accounts that need to be updated
			and managed and adhered to. If every website on the web has to have a Facebook account in order to
			exist in practical terms, the web is dead—competition is dead
		</p><p>
			<em>Every website should not look like a NASCAR advert for every sharing service in
			existence.</em> One RSS button should do everything
		</p>
	</li><li>
		<p>
			We lose the ability for us to aggregate, mash-up and interpret news without having to go through a
			closed API that may change on a whim, or disagree with our particular usage
		</p>
	</li><li>
		<p>
			We lose a common standard by which content can be aggregated. A developer should not have to be
			fluent in Twitter, Facebook and a million different private APIs just to aggregate content from
			different websites you read
		</p>
	</li>
</ul>
<p>
	You should be writing to Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and all browser vendors to demand a first-class RSS experience
	baked in to your browser so well your grandmother could use it.
</p>


<h2>RSS Is the Browser’s Responsibility</h2>
<p>
	More than one person has already said that I’m somehow hypocritical because my website doesn’t have RSS, it
	<strong>does</strong> have RSS! (<a href="/rss">here</a>) You are probably not seeing it because of the very
	problem I’m talking about! Browser vendors are hiding RSS auto-discovery to the point nobody is aware it exists. I
	don’t have an RSS button in my HTML because it’s in the <code>&lt;head&gt;</code> and it’s up to the browser
	to do the best thing based on the user interface, operating system and device.
</p><p>
	There isn’t enough screen space on mobiles for every website to use their own RSS button. Relying on the web
	author to present RSS is not going scale. Too many different websites, too many different designs, too many
	different platforms, browsers and devices. It is <em>far</em> better if browser vendors do what is most appropriate
	to the browser’s user interface, that the website itself can’t see, can’t change.
</p><p>
	There appears to be a distinct lack of imagination going on with RSS. RSS does not have to be RSS shaped and look
	like RSS and do RSS things.
</p><p>
	Why can’t, when you visit a blog article, the browser reads the comments RSS, and when you next come back to that
	article, it can tell you that there have been new comments since, and highlight them on the page?
</p><p>
	Why do we go through the same daily routine of checking certain sites over and over again? Can’t our computers be
	more intelligent here? Isn’t the purpose of the computer / browser to save us time!? Why doesn’t the browser,
	when you open it, tell you how many new items there are, on what sites you commonly visit, without you having ever
	configured this?
</p><p>
	You cannot do that with a web app like Google Reader. It cannot look at your whole browsing history like the browser
	can. It cannot tie together your bookmarks and RSS. It cannot make decisions for you based on what other sites on
	the web you visit often enough. Only the browser knows everything about you, and tries to prevent one website
	knowing what other websites you’ve been on. Only the browser is central and trust-worthy enough to be aggregating
	your information without fears of beaming it to advertisers. Only the browser can join the dots and empower the
	user, rather than entrap them.
</p><p>
	When Mozilla release Firefox 4, then RSS auto-discovery moves out of sight from the most popular modern browsers.
	IE9 will add HTML5 (allowing IE users to see my site for the first time), but follow suit in removing the RSS button
	from view. I will be forced to add RSS hyperlinks to my HTML, which clutters up my website and links to a dumb page
	that doesn’t do anything helpful, or just doesn’t display at all. It confuses users, it wastes space and
	worse—it’s a really stupid way to be handling such incredible time-saving technology that should be part of
	every users’s daily interaction with their browser.
</p>


<h2 id="do">What Can Be Done</h2>
<p>
	I’m open to fair representation, and actually quite honoured to have Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler defend Firefox on my
	<a href="http://forum.camendesign.com" rel="external">forum</a>:
</p>
<blockquote>
	<p>
		How about spending the same energy you did on this rant coming up with a better design for RSS features and
		submitting it to the browser vendors who accept feature requests?
	</p>
	<cite>Asa Dotzler</cite>
</blockquote>
<p>
	This, I always knew would be the open retort, which is why I had staved off from writing this article until this
	point where I was finally too sick and tired to hold it back. I owe it to myself to put forward some good
	suggestions and will make it my aim to do so in due time.
</p>
<blockquote>
	<p>
		Your post suggests over and over rss auto-discovery is being killed when it isn’t. You no more today have
		to add an RSS button to your page than you did a year ago. The UI for RSS has actually improved with a menu
		item that makes it clear what RSS is “subscribe”.
	</p><p>
		RSS never had a button in the toolbar. It had an icon in the addressbar. Now it has a full menu item in the
		bookmarks menu with a clear description of what it is “subscribe.” something it lacked before and which
		makes it far more discoverable than the little orange chicklett in the addressbar.
	</p><p>
		Your rant is misplaced. Mozilla, with the creation of live bookmarks and the first high-profile placement
		of the rss icon has done more to promote RSS than any other piece of desktop software. The UI, as it was
		— a tiny orange button in the addressbar wasn’t helping users use the feature so it was removed. Better
		UI, a menu item with a real description of what RSS does, “subscribe” replaced it. That’s a positive
		step, not a negative one. Though it may be encountered by fewer users, it will make much more sense to
		those who do encounter it.
	</p><p>
		Live bookmarks, the best RSS feature implementation I've seen to date in a web browser, is still there.
		Auto-discovery and a “subscribe” menu item is there. Mozilla has improved the design of RSS and
		you’re ranting as if they’ve killed it.
	</p>
	<cite>Asa Dotzler</cite>
</blockquote>
<p>
	My only response to this at this time is simply that what exists in current browsers isn’t enough. E-mail was once
	inaccessible to regular folks, now it’s an essential part of their day. I believe that RSS can also be every bit
	as important as a tool for browser intelligence to make the web easier and more user-centric.
</p>

<hr />

<p>
	<strong>Thank you to everybody who has spread this article about,</strong> it got a very large amount of attention
	and I hope some good has come of it. I have written a follow up to this article, <a href="/rss_a_reply">here</a>.
</p>
</section>
<!-- ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ -->
</article>
<footer>
	<nav><a href="http://forum.camendesign.com">‹ Discuss this in the Forum ›</a></nav>
		
	<a href="mailto:kroc@camendesign.com">kroc@camendesign.com</a>
	<nav>view-source:
		<a href="/blog/rss_is_dying.rem">Rem</a> •
		<a href="/blog/rss_is_dying.html">HTML</a> •
		<a href="/design/">CSS</a> •
		<a href="/.system/">PHP</a> •
		<a href="/.htaccess">.htaccess</a>
	</nav>
	<form method="get" action="https://duckduckgo.com">
		<input type="hidden" name="sites" value="camendesign.com" />
		<input type="search" name="q" placeholder="search…" />
		<input type="submit" value="Go" />
	</form>
</footer>
<!-- =================================================================================================== code is art === -->