Five years after Google conquered and abandoned RSS, the news-reader ecosystem is showing green shoots

RSS was a revelation for blogging and online media; we got our first RSS feed in 2001 and I have relied heavily on RSS feeds to write this site (and stay informed) for nearly two decades now; in 2005, Google bet heavily on RSS with its Google Reader product, which quickly eclipsed every other reader, so that by the time they killed it in 2013, there wasn't anything sophisticated, robust and well-maintained to switch to.

RSS reader development ramped up and the people who relied on RSS downgraded to these underinvested readers, sticking with them while their plucky developers worked their guts out to build up usable, reliable products that continued to deliver the a window into the web, not mutilated by the unaccountable, opaque algorithms of the social platforms. Using RSS in 2018 is a path to a better web and a superior information diet.

Wired's Brian Barrett investigates the fragile, but growing, ecosystem of RSS readers, five years after the Google extinction event, and finds some very promising green shoots. I use Newsblur, and pay for it, and always have a tab open to it.

RSS is alive and well behind the scenes. It continues to power podcasts (despite Apple's and Audible's best efforts to replace it with their proprietary tools); it is the primary means by which the platforms suck content out of us plucky publishers. It's there, if you want it.

Feedly, for instance, has for the last two years gravitated toward being a tool for research rather than passive entertainment. That's partly in response to platforms eating the open web. "If you go after entertainment, you're not competing against other reader news tools. You're really competing with Instagram and other things people do to kill time," says Khodabakchian. "On the other hand, if you think of this as an intelligence tool, or research assistant, we see a huge and increasing demand for that."

Still, Feedly has plenty to offer casual users. It has a clean user interface, and the free version of its service lets you follow 100 sources, categorized into up to three feeds—think News, Sports, Humor, or wherever your interests lie. It also shows how popular each story is, both on Feedly and across various social networks, to give you a sense of what people are reading without letting that information dictate what you see. Paid accounts—of which Feedly has about 100,000—get you more feeds and integrations, faster updates, and better tools for teams.

For more of a throwback feel, you might try The Old Reader, which strips down the RSS reader experience while still emphasizing a social component.

It's Time for an RSS Revival [Brian Barrett/Wired]