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RSS has no Fail Whale

Saturday, September 05, 2009 by Dave Winer.

First, thanks to Fred Wilson and Bijan Sabet for standing up for RSS. You don't have to be a tech scholar to know that RSS is like XML or HTML or HTTP or text files. It's fabric, permanent, it ain't going anywhere. It's not like the Norweigian Blue, it isn't pining for the fjords or pushing up daisies. Let's keep a sense of humor and a sense of perspective. Some people look at life and see death. I look at life and try to be happy, cause yeah someday we all die, but that day hasn't come yet. (Knock wood and Praise Murphy.) Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named elephant.jpgWilliam Mougayar suggested in a comment on Fred's post that Twitter could have a button that allowed you to add any RSS feed to your Twitter stream.  Permalink to this paragraph

I said "if they did that they'd have to absorb a significant share of the RSS flow, and that's the problem and why it's ludicrous to think that RSS is anything but the elephant in the room and the 800-pound gorilla combined." Permalink to this paragraph

"You can see it in the famous TechCrunch leak piece of the internal Twitter docs. They know they can't handle the load. Permalink to this paragraph

"That's why a distributed approach is the only one with any hope of working. The reason RSS could grow so huge is the same reason HTML and HTTP could, it's not centralized. That was the mistake Feedburner made. They thought 'Oh we can make a killing by snarfing up all the RSS.' No way Jose. That's a losing proposition. Luckily they got Google to give them $100 mill before the house of cards collapsed. They too put the brakes on growth." Permalink to this paragraph

Talking with Scoble last night, he offered that Twitter would have to grow to the size of Google to handle all of RSS. I agreed, but said it would be worse. Twitter would have to grow to be the size of Google overnight and without a revenue stream. Google got to grow with the web. Twitter wouldn't have that luxury relative to RSS. It became a giant long before Twitter even existed. Permalink to this paragraph

Which brings us to the Fail Whale. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named peace.jpgRSS has grown in a fairly orderly fashion, quietly, without daily articles in the NY Times, or appearances on Oprah, or proclamations by athletes and movie stars. It also grew to huge size without a Fail Whale. RSS, in over ten years, has never gone down. Think about that for a moment. That's because it was designed for growth from day one. Getting on the RSS bus can be as simple as putting a file on your Apache server. It's just another rendering of your content flow. It requires a fairly small commitment, you don't need tens of millions of dollars of venture capital to build out an RSS network. You can rent it from Amazon at pennies per gigabyte.  Permalink to this paragraph

Anyone who thinks Twitter could replace RSS doesn't understand the scale of the two things. Twitter is a fairly new company that has had trouble meeting the remarkable growth it has achieved. I use Twitter all the time, and I love it. I find that RSS and Twitter are a good combination. And I think news people create controversy for the same reason journalists have always sold war -- it gets people to read their journals, and their ads, and it makes them money. That's all that's going on here.  Permalink to this paragraph

Interestingly, rather than Twitter absorbing RSS, it may go the other way. Perhaps RSS will absorb Twitter. That's the idea behind rssCloud. That a lot can be gained by creating a loosely-coupled 140-character network. Sure there will be tradeoffs, it'll take up to a minute for you to see your friends' updates. But there would be a lot of advantages, for example -- while one component of the network can fail, the whole thing is as resilient and distributed as the Internet. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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Last update: 9/5/2009; 5:08:54 PM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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