Reboot RSS readers? Sorry, that train has left the station

Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, and I were arguing last week about whether RSS has a future or not. He speaks up for “it has a future” on his blog. Dave Winer today has a great post on how to reboot RSS.

First, lets separate RSS readers from the format. You know, Google Reader is not the XML that flows underneath. Truth be told, even in Twitter and Facebook a lot of what I read gets there via RSS even though we really don’t know that and don’t care (just like most of us no longer type “http” at the beginning of a web page, and we don’t care that the system that delivered my words to your screen was built on top of HTTP).

What is dying is our RSS reading behavior. Over and over people tell me they are using RSS readers less and less and that they are using Facebook and Twitter more and more. Dave Winer is right about one of the reasons: that Google Reader wasn’t a river of news.

But there were lots of other problems with Google Reader as well. For one, it lost me when it added Friends in an attempt to become Facebook, but when I added more than 1,000 friends it got dreadfully slow. The only way the team could fix that problem was to delete all my friends. Twitter works, and works fast, even though I am following 22,000.

Also, normal people couldn’t figure out what RSS was, or how to use it. Facebook’s “likes” and “shares” and Twitter’s “follows” and “RTs” are much easier to use, and more consistent.

Now that those buttons are all over the web it’s going to be very hard for a new news reader to get us to add yet another “share on RSS system” button. Sorry, but that’s just not gonna happen unless some RSS system is able to get a billion people to use it before Facebook can.

Instead of arguing about RSS reader’s future, I will instead focus on Twitter’s and Facebook’s future.

For me, that future includes a few things:

1. Tracking and filtering. You really must watch the video on DataSift. DataSift is going to make RSS very much less relevant as we’re able to build new filtering systems.
2. Client innovation. That includes the new TweetDeck and Seesmic (last week Seesmic shipped a new client and plug-in platform) as well as new pagination systems from, Twitter Times, and Flipboard (I’ll be at Flipboard today, they are working on a new version that will be out soon).
3. Content optimization systems. SocialFlow is being used by the Economist, GigaOm, and RWW. The video I did with the founder gives a hint as to why I think SocialFlow is something that content-producing teams should consider.
4. New advertising systems. CompassLabs has built a new platform that delivers much more relevant real-time ads to Twitter and Facebook clients. My video gives insights into that.
5. Curation tools. There’s a couple of good ones coming from and Storify. More when they hit the market over the next few weeks.

All that innovation is happening on top of Twitter and Facebook, not on top of RSS, and I’m seeing signs that we’ll see even more soon (Demo is this week, Techcrunch Disrupt is in a couple of weeks).