A few days ago, someone said:

“Over 1 billion people on the Internet read news. What % of those people use RSS? What % know what it is?”

Later tweets showed that the original intention was clearly to dismiss RSS as one of the key elements of today’s open web. Yet, I believe that person is right – very few people know about RSS.

And I also believe it’s intentional!

The RSS ecosystem is the web…and the web is complex and dirty. Often times, people will rightfully compare the complexity of the web with the (creepy!) cleanliness of mobile apps on iOS and Android.

The reason our team at Superfeedr bet on RSS is because we like the fact that there is no gatekeeper when you build with RSS feeds. On the other side of that coin, the reason why so many people dismiss RSS is because it’s complex to use, implement, and consume.

Yet, I’m convinced we can do better and combine the amazing freedom and power of the open RSS web with the elegance and simplicity offered by closed silos and platforms. This is the reason we support the Reboot RSS movement.

As part of that effort, we decided to focus on the act of “following“.

With RSS, this usually means _adding a feed to my reader_…and this is very, very complex.

For example, if I want to follow this very blog inside my FlowReader account, I’d have to:

  1. Copy this page’s URL,
  2. Open a new tab,
  3. Got to http://flowreader.com/items
  4. Click on the + icon
  5. Paste the blog’s URL into the “Add subscriptions (RSS URL)” field and finally,
  6. Click the “Add” button.

That’s a lot of work. Too much work when attention is a currency.

In comparison, from that same page, if I want to follow @flow_reader on Twitter, I can just click on the link above (with the Twitter bird icon) and then, hit the “Follow” button on Twitter.

Guess which option most lay people will choose? (They probably have no idea they can even follow the blog in a reader if they just looked at the page.)

So, we came up with a solution. It’s called SubToMe.

subtome

It’s a simple button that anyone can embed on their blogs. It’s open, decentralized and respects the user’s privacy.

You can test it by clicking on this very button:

There is no copy or paste involved, just 2 clicks to be redirected to your favorite feed reader.

Of course, following is just one aspect of the RSS ecosystem, but it’s often the first one. If we can make that easier and seamless, then I’m convinced we will see an even stronger and robust web. Put a SubToMe button on your site. It’s not that hard!


 

Julien Genestoux

 

This is a guest post by Julien Genestoux, the founder of Superfeedr. Superfeedr fetches and parses RSS or Atom feeds on behalf of its users, and then pushes the new entries to subscribing applications.

 

 

 

How do you think services can make RSS easier to use? 

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments! You can also join us on Facebook or @flow_reader.