Google is testing a new feature for its Chrome browser on Android that lets users “follow” sites to create an updating list of new content they publish. The feature is based on [Real Simple Syndication (RSS)], an open web standard that’s been the backbone of many popular web aggregation tools in the past. That includes Google’s own, much beloved (and now defunct) Google Reader.
Although this is just an early test, it’s nonetheless exciting for a certain sort of web user who misses the glory-days of RSS (and, by extension, a mode of internet discovery and distribution that faded years ago). At its core, RSS allows users to maintain a personalized feed of new content from favorite sites, blogs, and podcasts. And although tools that utilized these feeds were briefly very popular, they were eclipsed for numerous reasons.
Let’s get this straight. RSS died because Google killed it when they pulled their Reader app from the market. There aren’t “numerous reasons,” just one—Google murdered RSS.
While I welcome any new innovation involving RSS, Google has demonstrated time and time again a brazen willingness to kill good software that promotes better use of the Internet, free speech, and democracy.
The big takeaway here is the idea of “following” a website instead of “subscribing” through a method that is still confusing to the average Internet user. When people don’t have an application dedicated to reading RSS, clicking on a link to subscribe displays raw code. Not exactly the best user experience.
I hope Google’s experiment proves worthy of expansion into all of their browsers because I think they are onto something. The best innovation is the kind that simplifies life vs. adding features.➵