Why Would Twitter Kill RSS?

    May 22, 2009
    Chris Crum

There is no question that Twitter and RSS have some things in common. However, they are not the same, and Twitter will not kill the feed reader. This is a concept I have seen come up a number of times, and frankly, I just don’t see it happening, at least not without some dramatic changes in how Twitter is presented to its users.

Note: There are many different feed readers that offer different options. I am not familiar with all of them. There are also many Twitter applications out there that allow for different kinds of integrations, and again I am not familiar with all of them.

There are similarities and differences between the concepts that are RSS and Twitter. Let’s look at a few of them.

How They Are the Same

– One thing they have in common is that there are a lot of people that don’t understand the purpose of either one.

– Both can bring you a wealth of information that you are interested in receiving into one convenient place.

– Both can keep you up to date with news.

– Both can provide a means of discovering new and interesting content.

– From the content provider’s perspective, both can provide a convenient delivery method.

Did I leave some out? Share some similarities in the comments.

How they Are Different

– Of course, Twitter is a two-way communication tool whereas a feed reader only brings information in. Although some have social features that allow for interaction…Google for example has gotten more social with sharing and commenting features.

– With RSS there is a better chance that content won’t go overlooked. Feed readers put a number on the unread posts. Twitter is a never-ending stream. Granted, you can go to each person’s stream separately, but you won’t see any specific number of unread posts.

– RSS Readers can be organized, broken down into categories…how do you organize Twitter messages (without RSS feeds)?

– With Twitter, you can only subscribe to or "follow" those you find on Twitter. With RSS, you pretty much have the entire web as long as the site offers feeds, which most providing regular content do by now. Most blogging platforms create feeds automatically.

– With feeds, you get a lot more visible content. With Twitter, you get 140 characters. Some feeds allow for full text. With tweets you will always have to follow links to get full content.

– Tweets are real-time. RSS tends to drag behind a bit (at least in my experience).

Did I leave some out? Share some differences in the comments.

Jeff Chandler puts it well (if not bluntly):

"To limit yourself to Twitter instead of RSS is a dumb move because your feedreader provides you the opportunity to see the bigger picture. You get to see many viewpoints instead of just one. You get to see trends outside of what people are talking about. Instead of updates or cool posts from here or their on the web, your feedreader serves the purpose of bringing all sorts of great information from across the web to you in one location."

RSS Feeds of Twitter Streams You can subscribe to Twitter streams as RSS feeds, for better organization, which is another endorsement for RSS. Use a feed reader to organize your Twitter friends’ posts. You can also set up your blog to post to Twitter via RSS.

Will Twitter replace feed readers? I don’t think so. But it certainly could become more mainstream (if it hasn’t already). You could probably find more people on the street that have heard of Twitter than have RSS at this point. But for those who have already been enjoying RSS, you’re going to have a hard time convincing them that Twitter will replace it in their lives.

While similar in some aspects, they are clearly two very different animals. Like blogs and Twitter, there is no reason why they can’t co-exist, and even feed off of each other.

The best links on Twitter often come from people who acquire those links themselves via feed readers. Likewise, a lot of bloggers are gathering information from Twitter to compose their content.

I do think that RSS and Twitter can be used to explain each other to those who don’t grasp the concept of one or the other. If you describe Twitter as "sort of a feed reader" type service, you may drive (at least part of) the point home. If someone doesn’t understand RSS, you might be able to explain it using Twitter as an example. Just a thought.