By Shahed Nooshmand

Toward a more relational Medium

Ev Williams on his personal blog:

RSS provided a mechanism to subscribe, which created continuity (and efficiency). A weakness of RSS, though, IMO is that it doesn’t carry the visual design of a blog. That, and not seeing the URL in your browser, reduced the sense of place.

As a blogger, because the space is yours — you’re not pushing yourself into a feed or an inbox — there’s a lot of freedom. Similar, perhaps, to the freedom that one has posting to an IG story versus the feed (without the ephemerality).

I see RSS’ not carrying the visual design of a blog as a strength. Not every website has a clean and low-key theme like mine does. RSS — alongside Atom and JSON feed — is a way for readers to get away from the crappy interface of what might otherwise be an excellent publication.

Of course every website can choose to limit its feed entries to a few sentences and ask its followers to read the rest of the article on the website. This is useful for audience-supported sites that might offer full-length feeds exclusively to premium members (e.g. The Loop), but is also used for making people visit data-stealing webpages with unnecessary animations, aggressive ads and annoying pop-ups for various email newsletters. Individual writers and publications have owned their space for two decades and that is where we are today. Imagine if these people had the power to control the behaviour of a mainstream feed reader to further harass their own audience.

To a feed reader (the person, not the software) the articles of a blog don’t seem out of place. I never miss not seeing the URL of a page I’m reading in NetNewsWire, because I know and trust the sources I am following, and have confidence that those sources are the only ones that show up in my feed. People who read RSS don’t just put up with it — they actually like it. The entirety of the most recent episode of Mac Power Users is about how much David and Stephen like RSS. RSS is everywhere, and to a feed reader, each and every blog post is exactly where it should be.

Now, Medium isn’t trying to get rid of RSS. In fact, they continue to generate full-content RSS feeds for all writers, unless the writer decides to put their blog behind a paywall. That’s cool. But all this talk of visual design and IG stories scares me.