Twitter is the new RSS

I’ve been watching from afar the outcry over the shutting down of Google Reader. Previously a heavy gReader user, I’ve gradually moved away from the service, the move coinciding very much with the emergence of Twitter as an effective content curation platform. Nowadays, when I find an interesting post / blog, I usually try to find the author’s Twitter account and follow it. This way I not only get updates on new blog posts in realtime, I also get additional content via regular tweets that might be of interest.

The asymmetric Twitter following model really supports this behavior – for a long time I used Twitter almost exclusively as a content curation service. While my Google Reader account was getting out of hand with the guilt inducing +1000 unread items, with Twitter I never felt pressured to chase “Inbox zero” on my read count. I might miss some good content, but in most cases if it’s interesting enough it will float up again and I’ll catch it anyway.

With the deprecation announcement of Google Reader, many new RSS subscription services popped up / gained popularity, and I wonder whether they’re catering to an inferior content publication approach. If you look at the Google Trends chart Andrew Chen put in a recent post, the downwards trajectory correlates well to the launch of Twitter (Mar. 2006).

My 2 main sources now for new + interesting content are Twitter and HackerNews. HackerNews pushes to the top the really popular items (so it’s basically my actual “news” source), while with Twitter I can personalize my stream to suite my interests and preferences by managing the people I follow. I get introduced to new content via RTs and mentions, so my content stream is always expanding.

While I think RSS failed mostly on marketing and usage penetration for the average user, I also think it had problems scaling as your subscription inventory grew. I (and probably most people) don’t have time to read everything interesting that crosses our way, and in that sense Twitter has become the content subscription service I actually needed.


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  • Jalada

    You just need a better RSS reader. Google Reader is fundamentally designed for a world where email was the main method of communication. That’s why it has unread items and folders.

    This is leading to me shamelessly promoting my own service: which treats RSS more like Twitter, and relies on exactly the behaviour you describe of interesting content bubbling up, and doesn’t pressure you with an unread item count.

    RSS is the new RSS.

  • kaisellgren

    You should remove “sign up”, and just have “sign in with Facebook/G+/etc”. To be honest, if you had that sign in with X, I would have tried it, but I’m too irritated to set up a new account with a new random password and all that.

  • Will_Rubin

    Twitter sucks as an RSS replacement for three reasons:

    1. No mark as read/unread so no way to save something as “skimmed but read in more detail later.”
    2. No folders so no way to just dump all the cat pics or financial news or whatever.
    3. No way to get tweets pushed to my laptop and tablet. Pull only makes it cumbersome.

  • Jalada

    Completely agree, I’m not a fan of signing up with a new password too. It’s on my list of things to do :)

    For now, I would recommend this as a good time to sort out a password manager like 1Password or LastPass so you don’t have to remember random passwords :)

  • Hod Benbinyamin

    Yes! Twitter is the new RSS.

  • kaisellgren

    I use Chrome’s password manager with its sync feature. It doesn’t have a “generate random pass” feature though, so I have to use a separate service for that.

  • Aaron Toponce

    Twitter fails as RSS for the #1 reason: snippets. The reason I subscribe to RSS, is so I don’t have to pull up multiple tabs to go to multiple separate sites. All the content is in one location. If you give me an RSS snippet, I won’t read your content.

  • geeknik

    Actually, Chrome does have this feature, it’s just hidden away on the chrome://flags page. =) Just visit that URL and look for “Enable password generation.” Turn it on, restart the browser and anytime you encounter a password field, you’ll see a key, click on it, and you get a randomly generated password. It’ll save it to the password manager and sync it as well. =)

  • kaisellgren

    Nice! I was aware of about:flags, but never noticed that one, maybe it’s a new feature? Definitely trying it out.

  • Jalada

    That’s really handy to know.

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