When was the last time you used an RSS Reader?
I was chatting with some of my peers via email (!) last week about RSS, Twitter and how we get news.
We’ve all noticed that most of us are nowadays using Twitter as the main way to keep up to date.
One of my colleagues likened the situation to what happened to Betamax when VHS arrived: Betamax was better, but VHS won out because that’s what everyone started using, despite the fact that Betamax was better.
This made me think of the audio quality debate when mp3 arrived on the scene. Audiophiles decried mp3’s poor quality, but it won out because of the convenience of the format.
On the the betamax:vcr analogy. It’s not just network effects. I’d say there’s a convenience factor. So I give you another analogy: mp3 vs. cd-quality audio. Like mp3, info streams [such as Twitter] are convenient. Whereas like cd-quality audio, rss readers offer higher fidelity. But convenience wins. (Think I’m actually paraphrasing vinh here)
The paraphrase that I referred to was Khoi Vinh’s post on the convenience of mp3s and the concept of high definition.
The convenience of Twitter and similar streams of updates is that you don’t have to manage them. You don’t have to keep up. The stream just slides past. RSS readers offer higher fidelity in that you can get more detail on each post, you can organize your feeds, etc. But it looks and feels like you’ve got to keep up. That’s more work that I don’t need.
I also added:
Actually, it’s only RSS as an end user format that is disappearing. Under the hood RSS is everywhere still. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if the dominant interface style for the most common RSS readers did not look and feel so much like email?
And today Dave Winer posted a few choice words on the email-style interface of Google Reader and similar feed-reading software.
A final thought. On Friday, I had a colleage ask me, "What’s RSS?" Which again reminded me that RSS is simply not a user-focused technology. It’s not for people — it’s for powering sites and services online. For everyone excepting few hardcore info-junkies, it’s just not a factor.