State of the RSS


Apr 26, 2018 by Perttu Talasniemi

State of the RSS State of the RSS

Apple and Google have dropped RSS support from their products while TechCrunch is stating that RSS is undead. So what’s the deal?


Let’s start with an announcement: Apple vs Google RSS feed is now available! While I was doing the RSS feed I ended up thinking the current state of the RSS standard. I love standards and in web there aren’t too much of global stable standards. So why is RSS dying? Or is it dying? 🤔 TechCrunch is stating that RSS is undead even though that Apple and Google has dropped RSS support from their browsers – Safari and Chrome. Let’s take a deeper look into it.

The RSS – Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication – is a XML standard that has… well, really simple syntax. Perhaps even too simple. Maybe that’s the problem why it’s slowly fading away? One of the biggest problem in the RSS is that the feed can have only one image and that image is usually the feed providers icon or logo. But the items (article highlights) in the feed cannot have an image at least by the standard. There are lots of extensions to the RSS standards which may allow to add images in items but then the feed becomes invalid. Adding an article image to the item would make the feed much nicer to browse and ease the life of 3rd parties who are using the feed.

There are numerous apps and services using RSS as their base for example Feedly and Flipboard. Currently they need to hack to get the article image(s) but with just small improvement to the RSS standard we could provide the right – intended – images. This improvement would benefit both parties: the feed provider would know that the intended image is passed and the 3rd party using the feed would directly know what image to use. I guess one problem with the RSS is also the lack of advertisements. Which is excellent news for the reader but the feed providers are not very excited to lose their ad revenue. User tracking is also one major problem of RSS. From feed provider point of view it’s almost impossible to see what users are actually reading.

Maybe the standard shouldn’t be changed but rather the delivery method. What about having paid RSS feeds without advertisement? User would receive the content in RSS format and decide on what device or app to read it. Perhaps the subscriber authentication is difficult but it shouldn’t be impossible. This is just a wild idea but at least I’m intriguing by it. It shows that we haven’t yet seen the full potential what RSS has to provide for us.

Like it or not, RSS is still the superior way of following multiple blogs and news sources simultaneously. Even today, RSS beats Facebook and Twitter for tracking news. And not to forget the Facebook scandal. After that RSS seems once again more attractive source for news. At least in RSS you now what to expect because you have personally ordered the content. I’d say we should embrace it until we have better solutions. We need standards. We should improve them rather than just kill them. I wish to see RSS 3.0 to be published in one day.

Comment on Twitter what do you think is the state of RSS. Do you think it has seen its best days and it’s dying or do you think it still has a change to survive?

Share and comment on Twitter using #applevsgoogle & #avsg13 hashtags.


Edited on Apr 26, 2018: Typos and grammar


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