Email Ain't Dead. RSS Ain't Dead

There's some talk going on in the interweb about the future of technologies like RSS and email. Some people seem to believe that these fundamental technologies are dead already or will be dead soon. I feel, these zealous folks(tweeps?) have to be brought back to the real world.

Let's analyze RSS first. RSS has become a meme for feeds. Generally, when people are talking about RSS, they mean web feeds. Remember Xerox? RSS is one of the popular feed formats. Atom is the other major format. Personally, I prefer Atom for various reasons. Feeds are ubiquitous in the blog, news and podcast worlds. They are also useful and well received in other areas.

If you were to choose between feeds and emails to get updates from this blog what would you choose? I'd go with feeds any day. The first and foremost reason is privacy. I don't have to disclose my email address to the blog publisher to receive updates. Secondly, feeds offer great flexibility on the client side. If I choose email, I'd have to notify the blog publisher whenever I change my email address. Not with RSS. The email option adds processing burden to the publisher. The publisher has to verify the email address, provide unsubscribe options, answer email related support questions and perform other chores. In addition to having a web server, the publisher now requires an email server. So does the consumer.

Some people who would want to call themselves visionaries are talking about using other forms of sharing updates instead of feeds. These speculative minds suggest using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks as the means to share updates and ignore feeds completely. Adding on to the burdens described above, this form of sharing now adds a dependency on third party websites. If the third party goes out of business, or shuts down the service and starts charging service fees, you're in trouble. There are other possible ulterior motives of these third party websites, that threaten the openness of the Internet. When you depend on these third party websites, the chances of you retrieving your own data is in jeopardy. Internet is built on open standards. The very nature of the Internet is distributed. No single party controls the standards and their implementations of DNS, email, feeds and HTTP.

The approach of these third party websites are diametrically opposite. They try to centralize the web's information. They can, at any point use bazookas like privacy policies and terms of service to assault their own customers. If we give the reins of the web to these third party websites, we'll soon become proletarians in a totalitarian regime. Attention techno thriller authors, I'm giving you an idea you can use in your next dystopian novel.

Having said that, I would like to state that, I myself use these third party websites. I use them to complement the content sharing mechanisms. Not as a replacement. Whenever I use these social networking websites, I am prepared to give up the content I create on their networks.

Besides, there's no, one leader in these emerging websites. The market share is fragmented. Don't you think?

Not using RSS is one thing. What about the magnificent idea of giving up email? Surely, you must be smoking crack.

What will you do when your social networking website account is suspended for some reason? Will you tweet about the incident to raise a support ticket? Have you instructed your bank and credit card vendor to send statements as private messages on Facebook? When you have given up email, surely you must have asked your customers to get in touch with you by sending a direct message on Twitter. Needless to say, this series of questions is endless.

The next natural step for you would be giving up the idea of having a website. Why not use a Facebook page instead of a website?

What are your views on the idea of giving up feeds and emails?

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Well articulated.

Thanks Karthhik

I read this post via a feed :)

That proves RSS ain't dead. :)

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