121 Reasons RSS is Still Relevant

Romin Irani
Jan. 13 2011, 05:00AM EST

The debate over RSS never seems to end. 2011 kicked off with a widely read post predicting the decreasing influence of RSS in 2010. There have been responses from Fred Wilson and GigaOM that argue it is still relevant today. We believe that it continues to be a solid mechanism for web sites to aggregate data from multiple sources, as displayed by the 121 RSS APIs in our directory. In this post, we'll look at RSS beyond blog syndication.

JSON has been winning over developers and API providers over the last year due to its lightness and simplicity. There's no denying that XML has fallen out of favor. It might be safe to assume that RSS (which is basically XML) might have even less takers. One major upside to RSS is that it has standard fields that are generic enough to work for many uses. What's especially interesting is that the APIs in our directory that output RSS span across several categories. This goes to show that the uses of RSS are much beyond simply blog aggregation.

RSS, and more specifically its location extension GeoRSS, is popular amongst mapping APIs. It is also used by San Francisco Bay Area transit company in the BART API, citizen engagement platform SeeClickFix's API and RSS is an option for output from real-time push Kwwika API.

Despite the wide number of uses outside of blog aggregation, there's tremendous momentum behind JSON. With this trend in mind, do you see API vendors continuing to support RSS as a data format in the long run?

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Romin Irani Romin loves learning about new technologies and teaching it to others. Follow me on Google+




I hope RSS and XML continue to be supported, because unlike some programming languages, VB has no native support for JSON (I'd be happy to hear otherwise). This is a constant source of problems because I find an API I like and then have to abandon development because it uses JSON.

Romin: You are dead on. Those folks mistake a lack of increase in non-technical end users with non-use of a technology.

Sure RSS suffers from having a higher barrier of entry for non-technical people to set it up and learn how to subscribe. But just because my Mother doesn't use it to read web pages each day doesn't mean it is "dead".

And you are correct in noting just how many places an api returning RSS is promoting interconnections. All those sites adding value by re-purposing RSS feeds are definitely making use of this technology.

I'm very interested in how to visualize all those interconnections among sites via RSS. The interconnections and conversations are a major indicator of importance and priority when it comes to trying to manage information overload.

And, it seems to me that the real solution to RSS Overload is going to have to come from shifting to a more visual approach rather than larger and larger rivers of text.