Friday, May 8, 2020

feeds for your consideration: a preamble

It’s 2020, which makes RSS and its siblings something on the order of 20 years old as a technology in actual use. It’s been a bit over 7 years since Google killed off Google Reader, and a year since Firefox removed feed discovery features, the last visible form of support in a mainstream browser.1

And yet: Feeds are still widely published and remain surprisingly effective for reading a slice of the web that isn’t overtly terrible.

Maybe this is an accident, or an emergent nerd conspiracy. Feed publishing isn’t that hard for programmers to implement, and rarely comes to the malign attention of marketing departments or upper management. It remains baked into enough widely-used software (WordPress, for example) that a lot of sites probably publish feeds without even realizing it. Podcasting is a whole thing and is built on the same underlying tech, which probably helps too.

This is tech I still use every day, and I feel like more people would benefit if they knew about it, but unlike the last few times I’ve written about this topic, I won’t waste space on the (doomed) idea that a browser vendor or the software industry as a whole might behave any differently. After decades of very hard work, we’ve achieved the natural equilibrium of the web: It totally sucks. The infrastructure is all owned by assholes with bad ideas and the technology is dominated by grotesque, unwieldy nonsense.

Instead of worry about that, I thought maybe I’d just write a series of short posts linking to feeds that I enjoy or get some value out of, so look for that when / if I get around to it…

Edit: How do you subscribe to RSS/Atom feeds, you might reasonably ask? Well, you need a feedreader.

On the web, I use NewsBlur, a paid option with a free trial that’s also open source. On the desktop, I’ve used Liferea. If you want to self-host a web app, Tiny Tiny RSS is popular. For Firefox and Chrome, there’s a plugin called Feedbro that doesn’t seem to be open source (which sketches me out a bit), but does seem to offer a decent user experience.

In Firefox, I use the livemarks extension to see when pages have a feed I can subscribe to and turn some of them into “live bookmarks”. For Chrome, Google offers RSS Subscription Extension.

1 I use both "noticeable" and "mainstream" lightly here, given that the features were buried in a settings menu years before their removal, and Firefox itself exists at the financial and technical sufferance of the adtech search monopoly that owns the only browser anyone cares about supporting.

tags: topics/feeds, topics/firefox, topics/syndication, topics/technical, topics/web

p1k3 / 2020 / 5 / 8