Website Subscriptions Are Not Dead

Colin Devroe (via Brent Simmons):

This isn’t the first nor the last article to cover the creation of the RSS standard, its rise to relative popularity with Google Reader, and its subsequent fall from popularity.

But the big point that many of these articles dismiss lightly or directly omit is that RSS is still used as the underpinnings of so many widely popular services today. Apple News, Google News, Flipboard (each with likely tens of millions of users or more) and many others use RSS it is just that people do not know it.

We should likely stop talking about RSS. We need to simply start calling RSS “Subscribing”. “Subscribe to my blog” is the only thing we need to say.

Most users don’t care about the underlying technology; Devroe is right in that sense. However, while RSS may be succeeding in developers’ terms, subscription options should be more visible for users — ideally at the system level. The kind of users who aren’t necessarily aware of the format aren’t going to poke around for software to read feeds with.

In regions where Apple News is available — the U.S., U.K., and Australia — iOS and MacOS will handle RSS subscriptions more-or-less gracefully. Elsewhere, however, the system just doesn’t know what to do with the feed URL if you do not have an RSS reader installed, and will offer to send you to the App Store to download a feed reader using a link that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t work.