I have an agenda with RSS/Atom/XML-syndication but to say that RSS is dead, dying or irrelevant is to miss some important points. RSS isn’t a user interface, it isn’t a website or a meme-tracker. It is a format for data interchange, a format that happens to actually work, free of many of the complications of other formats. Atom even more so. Many of the social-media sites that are supposedly the RSS-killer rely on RSS. Many popular accounts on Twitter are powered by RSS fed bots. Much of the content piped into FriendFeed comes via RSS. TechMeme checks its sources via RSS. A lot of those iGoogle and Netvibes gadgets/widgets use RSS.
Show me a news source that doesn’t have an RSS or Atom XML feed.
What is dead, dying and irrelevant are complicated “RSS Readers” like Google Reader. Folders, full-text views, managing thousands of subscriptions, unread counts etc. are what is dying. Oddly enough we have the magnificent interface for email that is GMail, a real progression over three-pane email clients, but we then have a similar interface, Google Reader, for RSS. News isn’t email, we shouldn’t try and treat it as such.
Twitter and FriendFeed are interfaces onto data-streams, as is Facebook. As RSS moves closer to “real-time” so RSS will grow stronger and feed these social-media, data-stream interfaces. Soon we will have a web of real-time data-streams outside of vertical silos like Twitter, and it will be powered by Atom and RSS (and PubSubHubbub and rssCloud). Behind the real-time web will be RSS and Atom
The alternative is a web of disparate information APIs (Twitter’s, FriendFeed’s, Facebook’s) which I’m fairly sure we don’t want.
(Strangely enough we have a good, common, non-proprietary read/write API for information; AtomPub. Maybe coupling it with PubSubHubbub and the real-time web will popularise it.)