Jamie Zawinski wrote a fantastic rant about the demise of Google Reader. Go read it now and love the way he writes. But let’s not jump so fast back into the synching mess that we got into in the Google Reader era of RSS.
We could be entering an era of low barriers to entry, competition, new ideas, innovation, and freedom from big tech companies. Things could get a lot better, right now, and keep getting better. Or, as Zawinski says, it could just be a more miserable version of what we’re leaving behind.
To get better, we just have to give up on the idea of synching. That a special piece of software has to be written for every device you own, and that each of those apps needs to know what articles you’ve clicked on. That was the weakness in the old way of doing things. It made it ridiculously expensive to run an aggregator. It made it so that small companies or individuals couldn’t experiment with a very simple technology. Why the largest of the tech companies came to dominate even though its heart wasn’t in it. Because it took huge resources to run the central node in that network.
These days we can create beautiful software running in the web browser. It might not be 100 percent as elegant as what you get from an iOS app, but it comes without Apple’s censorship and with no need to synch. If you use the same app everywhere, it can just store the information once in the same place it stores your subscriptions, and you’re almost perfectly happy and RSS gets a chance to thrive.
It’s still super expensive to run an aggregator, but we can make it easier, as users, by giving up this one thing.
Let’s love the browser again, as we once did, and RSS can flourish again.