A lot of people who were on the internet in the early 2000’s remember something called RSS. It stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it allowed content creators to publish updates to the world in a well-understood format.
The idea—which seems strange to type out—is that millions of people in the world could create and publish ideas, thoughts, and content…and then people who enjoyed that content would collect sources into a reader, which was called, well, an RSS Reader.
I often wonder if Google could revive democracy by bringing back Reader.
Google Reader was the reader of choice, and it was glorious. People took pride in their curated set of sources, and we wrote a lot about how to best organize your feeds for maximum efficiency.
It was a direct connection between creators and consumers. By adding someone’s feed to your RSS reader you were saying, “Yes, I’d like to subscribe to your interpretation of reality.”
By curating the feeds in your reader, you were curating your view of the world. And that was made up of hundreds or thousands of individual voices.
We’re not sure who struck first—us or them—but we know it was us that scorched the sky.
Lots of things ultimately hurt RSS, but Google closing Google Reader definitely didn’t help. Another factor was the rise of aggregation sites like Slashdot, Digg, and Reddit, which seductively took on the burden of surfacing the best content.