According to a very old tradition which cycles are accelerated by internet and that wants people to get rid of their idols with as much energy as they spent to adulate them, there is not a single week without the announce of the death of a technology. The future dead of the week is : RSS (we’ll talk about portails and emails in the upcoming weeks).
Lee Bryant wrote a very good note about that. A note that said so many sensible things that there is no need to add anything. So I’ll focus on two points that I consider being very important : the very usefulness of RSS and its possible replacement by microblogging tools, embodied for the general public by Her Majesty Twitter
Relying on microblogging success to bury RSS is a nonsense
I think that today everybody has understood that enterprise 2.0 is not web 2.0 and there’s a track record of many years of experimentations that proves it. Moreover, if it was, nobody would be discussing it today. I dont think that twitter will replace RSS on the web, nor it’s the best tool to do that, nor its public success foreshadows an enterprise-wide massive adoption. The high rate of non returning users (some says it’s about 60%) also must make us relativize our favorite chirping bird.
• RSS helps me agregate a large amount of information (something like 400 feeds) in an “intelligence” process, allowing me to read, keep for later, and treat everything that interest me in an only place.
• Twitter helps me to see the noise generate by such or such information within my network and know is something went unnoticed, if it’s a week or a strong signal, or valueless noise.
In the other way :
• RSS made my content available and usable by anyone, for their own use.
• Twitter helps me to give an information at a given moment (status) or promote an information seen on twitter or elsewhere. But in no way to treat this information.
Comparing RSS and microblogging is (once again) mistaking goals for means.
One thing is sure : all twitter users…use twitter. Directly, using a client, or a third part service. But very few people have used or treated an RSS feed.
Let me explain : twitter is a tool, RSS is a norm or a flow. I read on twitter, I write on twitter. But an RSS is generatid by a blog (or an information source) and read by a tool that can : aggregator, reader, third part service, in order to display or process its content. The proof : any RSS feed can end on twitter…and RSS can be used to read contents from twitter.
I’ll stop the technical considerations here but the fact is that RSS and twitter are “things” that have neither the same nature nor the same purpose. The can be complementary but they are not competitors nor exclude one another by defintion.
Twitter, and microblogging tools in general are an “end”. Information usually stops its way here. RSS is only the form that is taken by information on its way between two platforms. Saying RSS = readers is too simplistic.
RSS is not dead. It’s just being born
As said above, RSS is a middleware while microblogging tools are end applications. Saying middleware implies that there is something before (a platform or tool that can generate RSS) and something after (a platform or tool able to read / treat it).
Which applications are, today, able to generate RSS ? Very of the legacy apps present on our intranets can. More, many applications we use online on the intranet are only available as desktop applications within companies and instead of generating RSS feeds they generate… files that are send by email. Tools that may make RSS more populare ar either emerging or underused.
As for applications able to read / use RSS at the end of the chain they are either unexisting or unused…mainly because the lack of apps at the beginning of the chain don’t make them critical. As legacy tools will upgraded and new kind of tools will appear in the corporate toolbox, making more and more thing available through RSS, applications using RSS will become more and more used.
So the enterprise RSS story is only beginning. Later than on the web because of corporate inertia about usages and new tools.
Anyway. I’m not sure this discussion is critical to anyone.