RSS has the potential to be the worlds biggest micro-content social network

by Ian Rosenwach on 9.10.2009

Twitter, Facebook, and other micro-content social networks have a lot in common with RSS. You subscribe to content, be it a friend, Publisher, or a Twitter account. You read it all in a single place. You can unsubscribe. The content comes in snippets.



RSS has been around for a while, but maybe we’re missing something.

I propose that each RSS subscriber is really a follower, or a fan, or a friend. People form RSS publisher/subscriber relationships.

The problem is that RSS feeds are a one-way communication – from publisher to subscriber. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are more community-driven and conversational.

Why can’t we take all the social networks RSS has created and make RSS community-driven and conversational? At it’s most basic, what would need to be done?

  • Give RSS Publishers the ability to privately and publicly message their subscribers
  • Give RSS Subscribers the ability to privately and publicly message people they are subscribed to
  • Search public and private content
  • See the list of feeds other users are subscribed to

There’s more, but you get the drift.

If you can build messaging (public and private) into RSS, you surpassed Twitter as the largest micro-content social network.   Is this the next-generation RSS Reader?  Google Reader has sharing options, but no contact between the content producer and the subscriber.

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  • I for one am so excited that RSS has now been given a new lease of life. As one who uses RSS feeds extensively for not only my daily news updates, but updates on peoples blog posts etc, I have been saddened at some who considered it dead.
    Long live RSS!

  • You may be looking for AtomPub.

  • We are trying the similar thing at Redanyway ( by allowing people to make social ‘follow’ relationships with blogs

  • Fantastic idea – but isn’t this rather closely related to the whole idea of comment pingbacks? But I guess taking this one step further could add a new contender to the rssCloud versus PuSH (pubsubhubbub) debate.

    Ian, are you in a position to pursue this any further?

  • wouldn’t the publish/subscribe model, for example used by Google wave, start to solve this?

  • Yes! I’ve been thining a lot about this angle as well.
    Here are some thoughts on my blog (and related posts are listed).

  • Ian

    Just noticed I had several comments to approve, apologies! Where are those email alerts when you need them :)

    Alex, the Google Wave concept is similar yes – good call. I wonder though if it could expand beyond amateur (mostly user-generated) content to professional and more premium content? Twitter has done a good job attracting content creators of all shapes and sizes.

  • Ian


    wow, great post for some technical context to this!


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