RSS Explainer: What is a feed?

RSS feeds have never been as central to how most people use the internet as many of us nerds might imagine, but they are a fundamental building block for having a better experience online. Matt Webb has created About Feeds as an accessible introduction to using feeds.

RSS feeds have never been as central to how most people use the internet as many of us nerds might imagine, but they are a fundamental building block for having a better experience online. Matt Webb has created About Feeds as an accessible introduction to using feeds.

About Feeds is a free site from Matt Webb. I made this site because using web feeds for the first time is hard, and that limits the number of people who use feeds. But it’s good when web feeds are popular, because

for users, they can read the latest content easily without being bothered by ads and pop-overs… It’s a calmer, more pleasant reading experience. And the latest content is guaranteed to get through, and not get lost in the email inbox or get skipped over by a Facebook algorithm.

for site owners, they can reach readers directly, without having to chase virality with clickbait headlines on Twitter, or pay for access to users on Facebook. Feeds and newsreaders together favour the indies and the smaller players.

No-one owns web feeds, so there’s no-one harvesting all the personal data and profiting off it, or collecting email addresses to spam later. Subscribing is opt-in, so it’s spam proof. And that’s great.

But the lack of ownership is also a problem. Because no-one owns web feeds, it’s no-one’s responsibility to ensure a great user experience. In particular, I feel that web feeds are not friendly for new users. I wrote about some of my problems with RSS here.

My hope is that About Feeds can become the default “Help! What is this?” link next to every web feed icon on the web.

Why does this website exist?

If you want my blog’s feed, it’s at https://apollolemmon.com/feed/ .

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