Year of the RSS reader?

This strikes me as more wishful thinking than likely, but Nikki Usher over on NeimanLab is predicting “the year of the RSS reader” to replace Twitter and curb the deluge of newsletters in our inboxes.

Here’s what they have to say, which (again) strikes me as optimistic:

Two years ago, Sara Watson boldly predicted in this space that we might see a return of the RSS reader, or something like it, recognizing that the world of constant email newsletters was simply impossible to maintain. But the appetite wasn’t strong enough yet.

The difference, going into 2023, is that even the Inbox Zero people are going to have a reason to complain. Left without a better way to quickly zoom in and zoom out on the state of the universe (also known as the world according to Twitter), I predict those people will reach a point of frustration in even their ability to manage email.

It is at this point that the most organized people in late capitalism will rise up about a very small matter and demand something better: An RSS for the people, open source, easily used, and not some weird niche version for podcasts or that uses AI.

Well. Maybe? Certainly there’s an opportunity for something better. Between Twitter going to hell and the difficulty in keeping up with information, there’s opportunity. Something that unifies or improves ActivityPub and RSS and… all of the things, would be damn nice. I don’t see it on the horizon yet.

And I don’t see droves of people going back to RSS. I still use it, where it’s available, but my habits aren’t the best predictor of what others will use.

My prediction here is that 2023 is going to be messy as hell when it comes to social media and media consumption. Lots of parties will be vying for the top spot, and there’s a great deal of opportunity if someone gets it right. Will people have finally learned the lesson against centralization and letting the virtual town halls be controlled by entities like Twitter? Would love to see it, but I’m skeptical.

Whatever wins I don’t think it’s going to be RSS or ActivityPub in its current form. I’m betting someone is tinkering with a contender right now, hopefully in the form of an open protocol with open source implementations. Maybe ActivityPub++ or maybe something entirely new.

Any bets?

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