RSS Readers in 2019

RSS was an old technology even when it was brand new.

In fact, the most common question I get from people when they find out I use an RSS reader is, “What is it?”. The simplest answer I give is it’s a YouTube subscription box for everything you like to follow online. And it doesn’t try to manipulate you. You just take the URL and put it in to your favorite reader, and there you go, constant updates whenever a post or video goes live.

Ever since social media began to take off, the use and accessibility to RSS readers has gone down dramatically. Blog wars are a thing of the past, but RSS hasn’t gone away. RSS is the technology that powers the podcasts we all know and love today.

I was set to review several popular RSS readers, but it turns out one is better than most, and honestly, they all work the same anyways, so it’s not a big deal.

I mentioned this in a post a year ago, but a user building their house on somebody else’s property is usually a bad idea. Owning digital real estate is a good idea. Their own control, their own content, their own rules. And it seems that realization is spreading.

It’s the Facebook problem. People built their following on Facebook, and now they have to pay rent in the form of Boosts and ads to even reach their followers anymore. Prior to Facebook was Myspace. Bands would list their Myspace page on the cover slips to CDs, instead of having their own website. We see this beginning with Instagram, as the founders have left and Facebook is going to Facebookize the platform, which means paying to play is incoming.

But that’s just the financial problem. Oversight, or lack thereof, is also a major contributor to people leaving these platforms. Twitter has the worst reputation of this, where individuals gets temporarily banned with little explanation or recourse. But that’s Twitter’s reputation talking. All of the major players do this. Their opinions and rules change on what is appropriate to post at the time.

We all exchange convenience for control. This website used to be hosted by Google’s Blogger platform, which has terminated accounts with no recourse. Now I have switched to WordPress, but Blogger was always good to me. Blogger is convenient, easy to use, and I didn’t have to pay fees that normal hosting requires. All these social media sites are the same: free image and video hosting, no worrying about the backend, it’s all taken care of for you. Except you don’t own the product. Or in some cases your own content.

This is why blogs are so powerful and why RSS is such a crucial feature. RSS readers will subscribe to all the blogs and websites you’re interested in, and the user, not an algorithm, can determine what to read.

Take YouTube for example. YouTube introduced The Bell a year or so ago, which notified users whenever a channel posted a new video. This is because YouTube altered (broke?) their algorithm because people were so overwhelmed with content that they were leaving the site (another issue their algorithm created). Long story short, the subscription box no longer actually updates correctly. YouTube doesn’t even default to the subscription box anymore, but to their algorithmically decided Home feed. An RSS reader fixes this.

Just subscribe to your favorite channels with an RSS reader and you don’t even need a YouTube account anymore. Follow the websites and channels you want, big or small, and get them in one place.

I’ll be posting an in-depth review on Inoreader, my RSS of choice, but these links below are others I tried and enjoyed as well.

RSS Readers: