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Why would I need something else than RSS ?

- 3 minutes reading time
Why would I need something else than RSS ?
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Once upon a time, there was a very decentralized Web where each website proposed to subscribe to newsletters or follow their RSS feed to have the last news. We had RSS readers (on web version or on desktop, for instance I was using Opera’s RSS feed reader) which were regularly pooling the feeds and update the new articles. Then, we could sort the feeds and assign them categories and read it according to our time and mood.

But one day, some online services later known as “social medias” progressively removed their support of this standard. This decline continued with the removal of its support in the major Web browsers : Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, etc. Preferring keeping the users into a centralized closed service and serving them the content inside this cage. With this deprecation, a lot of news sites removed their RSS feed too.

The RSS format, for “RDF (Resource Description Framework) Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication”, has been developed in 1999 and it latest revision, RSS 2.0.11, was released on march 2009. It’s an open format consisting on a XML-structured file that contains website information and a list of articles the RSS reader, or news aggregator, would display. The web server produces the file and update it with the new content, and the news aggregator update its database according to this content and display them in a similar way than email.

Depending of the website, the RSS could display the entire article content or just a single preview, forcing the user to visit the site to see the rest of the content. Some readers can fetch the missing content thanks to some parameters and page parsing.

A concurrent format also exists, Atom, and both of the feeds were usually proposed.

With the explosion of the centralized social medias and the permanent user activity tracking, RSS lost a lot of interest and most of these services removed their feeds, forcing the users to create accounts to follow the content. And of course, being tracked by their various activity monitors to sell the data to their announcers.

In this vision, if I want to follow a video creator, I have to create an account on Youtube. If I want to follow a photographer, I have to create an account on Instragram. If I want to follow somebody on Twitter, I have to create a Twitter account. Etc. I have to check various different applications or websites and getting bombarded by notifications from each of them.

Fortunately, some alternative front-ends for social medias have been created (Nitter for Twitter, Invidious for Youtube, etc) and most of them called back this forgotten feature. Mastodon also proposes RSS feeds for the user profiles or hash tags. Today, thanks to these alternative front-ends, I can follow the profiles I want on social media, without giving them my privacy, sorting them into my RSS reader, reading the content when I want, not being polluted by “sponsored” content or “you may also like this content”. The format seems to be regaining some interest because I can see it more and more in various news site. Of course, the various blogs and personal sites propose RSS feeds too.

So, why would I need something else ?