RSS won’t die, but news readers are evolving and becoming more social

For years, there has been talk about the death of RSS. While RSS has been the most common way for bloggers and information workers to gather and collect information from lots of sources, it has never really caught the attention of the mainstream users. There might be many reasons for that, but the rather “unsexy” name of the format, the relatively complicated way of subscribing to a RSS feed (for less experienced users) and the little efforts from publishers to market RSS (with the exception of blogs) definitely contributed to the slow adoption of RSS outside of the web geek sphere (imagine if subscribing to a RSS feed would have been as easy as “liking” something with Facebook…).

In recent times, the number of people claiming RSS will die has increased due to the emergence of the realtime web, mainly pushed by Twitter, which increasingly is becoming a news distribution service (also thanks to innovative, Twitter based news readers like Flipboard or Pulse). Even though RSS has become realtime capable thanks to protocols such as PubSubHubbub or RSS Cloud, it is still (incorrectly) being perceived as a slower way of accessing news and information than Twitter.

The recently announced end of web-based RSS reader Bloglines is grist for the mill of those who see RSS dying. Even though Bloglines has fallen into oblivion already years ago, it was still one of the two big browser-based full-fledged RSS readers out there. Now with Bloglines disappearing, only Google Reader is left, leaving not many alternatives to those that are trying to not become too depended on Google services (which can happen easily when using Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Reader).

Well, for all those people, we might have the solution: Twingly Channels, our social and collaborative news tool which one can use to import both RSS feeds and articles from blogs based around specific keywords.

But wait, didn’t I just describe how some think RSS seems to be dying? Well, I did, but in fact, it isn’t. Even though it is pretty clear that RSS won’t become a big mainstream phenomenon due to the reasons mentioned above, the number of RSS subscribers to many of the big tech blogs is still increasing, and ironically, many of the articles being shared on Twitter come from RSS feeds – either from users who find them in their RSS reader, or via Twitter accounts that belong to big news sites, which usually are fed with the site’s RSS feed.

So while it is possible that some former RSS hardcore users are giving up on the format and solely rely on Twitter and social news aggregators such as Techmeme in the future, there are no indications of a broader trend of people totally abandoning RSS.

Nevertheless, conventional web-based RSS readers (such as Bloglines or Google Reader) but even Desktop RSS clients have their drawbacks: They usually don’t allow for collaboration, they focus only on RSS and they are not really sharable. Having that in mind, let’s get back to Twingly Channels!

Twingly Channels is made for several people contributing together to one social news stream, where they monitor, “like” and comment on news items imported from both RSS feeds but also via keywords. To each item, the number of linking posts and retweets is shown. And of course you can share the Channel with other Twingly users!

We are aware that Twingly Channels doesn’t replace classic RSS Readers. But that’s not our intention either. In Fact, Twingly Channels is taking the concept of RSS to the next level, making it more social, and combining it with a keyword centric way of importing content. In the end, RSS will definitely stay for good (especially because of the realtime boost the format got thanks to PubSubHubBub and RSS Cloud), but conventional, unsocial RSS readers might disappear.

So if you have been using Bloglines and are looking for a new tool to manage your news and information, or if you are using another RSS client but are in the need of something more social, or if you don’t even use RSS but would like to try a social reader which simply brings you all the blog content regarding specific keywords, you should try Twingly Channels.

We wrote this guide to help you getting started. It’s easy, so give it a whirl! And if you want us to import your complete list of subscribed RSS feeds from Bloglines, Google Reader or any other RSS client, send us an email with the OPML-file (containing your subscriptions – you get this file by using the export function in your RSS reader) and the URL of your Twingly Channel (e.g. www.twingly.com/channelname) to support@twingly.com and we’ll take care of it!

/Martin Weigert

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