RSS (RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed that allows users and applications to access updates to websites in a standardized, computer-readable format. These feeds can, for example, allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator. The news aggregator will automatically check the RSS feed for new content, allowing the list to be automatically passed from website to website or from website to user. This passing of content is called web syndication. Websites usually use RSS feeds to publish frequently updated information, such as blog entries, news headlines, or episodes of audio and video series. RSS is also used to distribute podcasts. An RSS document (called “feed”, “web feed”, or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, and metadata, like publishing date and author’s name.
Recent reporting and reflecting on the afterlives of RSS: “RSS is undead” “RSS died. Whether you blame Feedburner, or Google Reader, or Digg Reader … the humble protocol has managed to keep on trudging along despite all evidence that it is dead, dead, dead.” (Danny Chrichton, 2018); “Today, RSS is not dead. But neither is it anywhere near as popular as it once was.” (Sinclair Target, 2019); “The technology is dead for mainstream acceptance but still has plenty of uses.” “RSS…lives on as a ghost” (Some dude says, 2020)
Partially convinced by the take that the current web is “the legacy of RSS, even if it’s not built on RSS” (Werbach, quoted from below):
The first is a story about a broad vision for the web’s future that never quite came to fruition. The second is a story about how a collaborative effort to improve a popular standard devolved into one of the most contentious forks in the history of open-source software development. RSS was one of the standards that promised to deliver [a] syndicated future. …And yet, two decades later, after the rise of social media and Google’s decision to shut down Google Reader, RSS appears to be a slowly dying technology, now used chiefly by podcasters, programmers with tech blogs, and the occasional journalist.
The fork happened [in 2000] after Dornfest announced a proposed RSS 1.0 specification and formed the RSS-DEV Working Group. RSS would fork again in 2003 [into Atom], when several developers frustrated with the bickering in the RSS community sought to create an entirely new format. After the introduction of Atom, there were three competing versions of RSS: Winer’s RSS 0.92 (updated to RSS 2.0 in 2002 and renamed “Really Simple Syndication”), the RSS-DEV Working Group’s RSS 1.0, and Atom. Today we mostly use RSS 2.0 and Atom. Today, RSS is not dead. But neither is it anywhere near as popular as it once was… [The most pervasive explanation is] … Social networks, just like RSS, provide a feed featuring all the latest news on the internet. Social networks took over from RSS because they were simply better feeds. Another theory is that RSS was always too geeky for regular people.
Not sure to believe the take that it’s all about product design:
[Lack of prioritization, discovery and curation for users, and lack of analytics and branding content for publishers] are just some of the product issues with RSS, and together they ensure that the protocol will never reach the ubiquity required to supplant centralized tech corporations. [For] solving RSS as business model. There needs to be some sort of a commerce layer around feeds, so that there is an incentive to improve and optimize the RSS experience.
Its death in spite of its ubiquity and cheapness:
RSS has largely been forgotten but lives on as a ghost on almost every major website. The RSS feed exists, it’s updated, and everything is accessible without anyone touching it. It’s so stable no one has to think to check the RSS feed; it just works. RSS is also so computationally cheap no one bothers to exclude it since it’s effectively a rounding error in processing.