rss is dead. long live RSS!

I’ve heard a lot of people bemoaning the death of RSS the last few years, and I didn’t really understand it. “RSS isn’t dead,” I’d say, “I use it every day! Everyone uses it! They might not know what it is, but they use it. Google reader, hellooooo.” Except.. apparently not so much.

I posted a while back about how Google Reader recommendations are broken. I’ve since learned from a little birdie that the reason, more or less, is that Google has all but gutted the reader team. I was pretty amazed to hear this, and I expressed confusion as to how Google could be defunding what had to be one of their biggest products. Right? Well, er.. no, apparently. I was shocked to learn that hardly anyone uses google reader these days. Why? One word: facebook. Apparently, we can add google reader to the long list of things that facebook has obsoleted via the sheer numbers of people it’s sucked into its network.

I don’t have any long-winded prognostications about what this means, but I do find it a little depressing. This is how people read the Internet, these days: twitter and facebook. I should put “read” in scarequotes, there, since people don’t go to twitter or facebook to read. They just get the occasional link/story shared there in the general stream of their social networking. Google Reader (and other RSS aggregators before it) were very efficient machines for doing one thing: aggregating content and reading it. Now, I’m not a twitter/facebook hater (okay maybe facebook a little), and I’m not knocking them as information dissemination machines. Obviously they are incredible for that: rapidly and efficiently spreading top/breaking news stories. Although this has its downsides, as well: useless but irritatingly popular memes. Just because everyone is talking about Charlie Sheen doesn’t mean I wanna fucking hear about it.

So where do people go to “read” the Internet? How do they choose preferences and filter their input? Have people abandoned RSS aggregators for curated aggregators like Huffington Post, et al? If so, that’s depressing too – and if you have to ask why, I have to ask if you’ve gone to the Huffington Post in the last, uh.. five years.

Is there a piece of the puzzle I’m missing, or are people really existing in this “river” of information that is nothing more than a circular loop of “top” stories that filter through their social network?

I truly hope that Google Reader sticks around – I can’t imagine what I’d do without it. Go back to Bloglines, I guess.