[Note: I'm a bit dazed by some over-the-counter cold medicine, so I reserve the right to edit this post later if I wake up and determine I was impaired while writing it late Tuesday night.]
It’s only four days into the new year, and I’m already blowing one of my resolutions. I’m going to ignore internecine geekosphere wars, I promised myself; especially the ones revolving around how X is going to kill Y. But the year’s inaugural dust-up meme was just too compelling to pass up.
Gigaom’s Matt Ingram provides a synopsis of the cross-fire. In short, it’s a demonstration of how some people, despite living in and among geeks, just don’t understand the whole RSS thing.
They believe that somehow, because Twitter drives more traffic to their site than something explicitly called an RSS newsreader (Google Reader), then “RSS is dying.” For anyone who knows me or who has read this blog with any regularity for the past decade would guess, I think such a conclusion as “RSS is dying” based on the premise that “Twitter drives more traffic to my blog” is a non sequitur.
Far from being an indication of the impending death of RSS, incoming traffic is more-likely an indication of Twitter’s dependence on RSS. And besides, RSS is now at the DNA level of the way the web works while Twitter is, well, your guess is as good as mine.
Let me repeat what I just said: In-coming Twitter traffic is an indication of Twitter’s dependence on RSS — not the death of RSS.
Here’s what I mean. Thanks to my use of an RSS newsreader that is highly organized around catching certain kind of content I am interested in, I ran across this video because Roger Ebert declared it an incredible short-film. Because I use a URL-shortner that allows me to track the number of clicks generated from a link I tweet, I know that this tweet has been responsible for 175 page views on Roger Ebert’s blog. So, his log would indicate that Twitter was responsible for 175 page views, while I know that my use of RSS is responsible.
Heck, even the people at Twitter don’t believe RSS is being replaced by Twitter. As I wrote last week, a couple of days after the iPad app-of-the-year, Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue joined the board of Twitter, there was a release of a Flipboard feature that makes it easy to use Flipboard as an RSS newsreader (via Google Reader). I praised that decision as not merely a feature, but a great way for Flipboard to appear less threatening to traditional publishers. Traditional publishers understand how RSS benefits them. If they view Flipboard as a new form of RSS reader, they are more likely to work with the company. If, via Flipboard, traditional publishers see Twitter and RSS as two versions of the same principle (which, in some ways they are), it can help speed up the inevitable flow of information across all sorts of platforms and all media.
To underscore what I mean, I’ll point to a tweet from Mike (again, now a Twitter board member) that he posted during the “RSS is dying” debate earlier this week, in which he said, “RSS is used to display bulk of tweeted articles we show on Flipboard.”
Bottomline: RSS is as pervasive on the internet as Kudzu in south Alabama. Love it or hate it, it ain’t gonna die.
Bonus: Dave Winer has several posts that explore this topic from a much more insightful vantage point than mine.