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4 comments: click to read or leave your own

I like RSS as a standard because it is:

  • established
  • mature
  • simple
  • well understood
  • well supported
  • extensible via namespaces

But it should be used for so much more than just blog posts and statuses – especially when paired with rssCloud for (virtually) instant updates.

Wikipedia defines RSS as:

a web feed that allows users and applications to access updates to websites in a standardized, computer-readable format.

It is this type of definition, however, that holds RSS back. Why does it just have to be updates to a website? RSS can be used to distribute all sorts of information. Once you start adding custom namespaces the possibilities are amazing.

There are way too many over-complicated protocols developed to do essentially the same things and the complexity excludes so many people. If we want true open communication and interoperability then things should be as simple as possible.

It's almost like people inventing new 'standards' are deliberately trying to make them hard so they can be the de facto gatekeepers of the new tech – all while decrying the web's current gatekeepers. If something is too hard for the average person to implement then they are forced to use an existing solution, often that created by those who designed the standard.

RSS may not be the answer to a lot of things, at least not in its basic form, but so much more could be achieved with a bit of lateral thinking and clever use of namespaces.

Some might think 'artcasting' is a bad use of RSS but is there really such thing as 'bad use' if it achieves its goal of getting information from one place to another in a simple, reliable manner that doesn't require a computer science degree to achieve?

Addenda A couple of clarifications:

  • this post is about RSS as a standard and not as a byword for feed
  • I am not getting involved in the RSS v Atom debate, my personal preference is RSS
  • "over-complicated" protocols doesn't reference anything in particular but ActivityPub is a good example. Insert your own OCP here
AndySylvester says: Reply to AndySylvester

@colinwalker excellent thoughts! I am going to take a look at the artcasting feed to see what changes (if any) would be needed for MyStatusTool to display images...

alongtheray says: Reply to alongtheray

@colinwalker Totally agree. We can do so much more with it and I'd love to see more interactivity somehow plugged in, i.e. being able to read and reply to comments, etc.

Bram says: Reply to Bram

Exactly! Even the use case of adding an image to a feed item - which falls well within the definition - is an extraordinary thing to witness nowadays. Photo feeds are very nice and make the rather dull text-only format more lively. I've read an article about reverse/random RSS feeds, where the inactive blog author had an automatic feed made up by random items from his archive, which is very nice if you have a big archive but currently no new entries. Thanks for this inspiring blogpost, I thought I was the only one looking for new RSS use cases.

Colin Walker replied:

I like the idea of a random feed.

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