Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Problem With RSS Is That It Needs Explaining

Matt Webb, via Cory Doctorow:

There’s a better way to read websites and it’s called web feeds a.k.a RSS. But web feeds are hard to get into for new users, so I decided to do something about it.

I posted about suggested improvements to RSS the other day and top of my list was onboarding: If you don’t know what RSS is, it’s really hard to start using it. This is because, unlike a social media platform, it doesn’t have a homepage. Nobody owns it. It’s nobody’s job to explain it. I’d like to see a website … which explains RSS, feeds, and readers for a general audience.

[…]

aboutfeeds.com is a single page website, for linking wherever you keep your web feed.

From that page:

Feeds put you in control. It’s like subscribing to a podcast, or following a company on Facebook. You don’t need to pay or hand over your email address. And you get the latest content without having to visit lots of sites, and without cluttering up your inbox. Had enough? Unsubscribe from the feed.

You just need a special app called a newsreader.

Gestures like this are lovely, but it is still a problem that RSS seemingly needs an explanation. There was a time when feed readers were built into email apps and web browsers, but that’s rarely the case now. I don’t know that there’s anything that will make it much easier for less technically inclined users to begin using RSS. It is a niche technology from a user’s perspective, but that is completely okay. Not everything needs to be dominant to be useful.