In the Age of Artificial intelligence, unlock RSS feeds!

Dimitri Pletschette
5 min readDec 30, 2023

When folks hear about RSS feeds these days, it often feels like a blast from the past. If you’re in the IT world, bringing it up at work might seem like the opposite of any super cool AI discussion, almost like flaunting your dinosaur credentials. However, RSS feeds were once among the coolest innovations on the internet, capturing the interest of bright minds like Aaron Schwartz. But before we dive deeper, let’s take a quick trip back in time and break things down if this happens to be your first encounter with those 3 letters.

Definition

RSS, which stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, is a web feed that lets users and apps receive website updates in a computer-friendly format. By subscribing to RSS feeds, users can stay updated on various websites through a single news aggregator, saving them the hassle of manually checking each site daily. How cool is that? These feeds often include frequently updated content like blog posts, news headlines, and podcasts. The RSS feeds are presented in a standardized XML file.

History in short

The initial version of RSS, called RDF Site Summary, was created by Dan Libby and Ramanathan V. Guha at Netscape in March 1999. It evolved shortly later, with a simplified version, RSS 0.91, emerging in July 1999. Libby renamed it RSS Rich Site Summary and outlined further development in a future document. This version dropped RDF elements and integrated elements from Dave Winer’s news syndication format a year later. Future evolutions of the project, such as the RSS-DEV Working Group, included notable participants such as Aaron Schwartz. Also, the famous orange logo was designed by Stephen Horlander in September 2004. The RSS trend took off between 2005 and 2006, especially when major web browsers embraced the iconic RSS symbol. The latest version, RSS 2.0, released in 2002, was last updated in 2009 (version 2.0.11).

Basic Consumption

RSS readers are super easy to use on computers or phones. Users can add a feed by pasting links or clicking the “feed icon”. The app will then keep them up-to-date by automatically fetching new content if they have turned on that option. The standardized format of RSS (XML) will also streamline content distribution for diverse feed readers. Users enjoy flexibility in selecting notification preferences, whether through a dedicated feed reader, email, or other chosen methods. The capability for offline reading enables users to download and access content even without an internet connection. An example of integration and consumption involves companies offering feeds to their investors, much like what Rakuten does in Japan.

Five RSS reader apps

Workplace automations

On a personal note, I’m really into workplace automations, and one of my favorite use-cases is using them to stay on top of professional content. We all find time to scroll through things outside of work, and it’s just as important to stay updated on industry-specific content, be it finance, regulations, technology, life sciences, or anything else. Time is a luxury we don’t always have, which led me to create various integrations over the years linked to RSS status pages or RSS news feeds. If you’ve got achievements in this realm, please share them in the comments below!

Next-level automations

What you’ve seen above is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies like Zapier or IFTTT take things to the next level with a variety of recipes. Make sure to check them out and ask them to create more!

AI-powered RSS feeds?

We could dive into the significance of RSS feeds in 2024, given the rise of AI-powered copilot assistants capable of summarizing information (to start with). But, as of now, RSS feeds typically show less bias. Having the ability to benefit from RSS feeds and AI assistants side by side will give us a wider range of information. Some of this information will be straight from the source, and the rest could be customized to our needs.

Additionally, customization and AI capabilities for RSS feeds could empower users to tailor their content consumption experience even more, allowing them to concentrate on specific topics or preferred sources. Unlike social media platforms, RSS feeds grant users greater privacy and control over the sources they follow, helping alleviate information overload.

On one hand, we could start to use AI to customize our RSS experiences and make the most of this tsunami of information. I stumbled upon the article from Garett MacGowanUsing LLMs to Build Smart RSS Readers”, and must admit that this is exactly what we could start doing next in terms of user experience. Feedly started in that direction too: https://feedly.com/i/aiFeeds.

And, on the other hand, could RSS feeds be used by LLMs to learn faster with a lighter carbon footprint on non-biased indexes?

Will we require an official RSS 3.0 ?

In the age of AI, with no time to spare and too much information to consume, we might need to refresh RSS to keep up with our modern ecosystems. Using AI or PhaseLLM to upgrade RSS-2 to RSS-3 or 4? Why do I mention RSS-4 if we are still officially under RSS-2 ? Well, it seems that some folks seem to have started a new RSS-3 journey outside the trails of the RSS advisory group: https://twitter.com/RSS3.

Useful links

Conclusion

There is probably no need to reinvent the wheel for everything every decade. Let’s try to keep the flame going on one of the best projects the internet has ever seen. How can we do this? We will need more RSS ambassadors to add feeds to their sites and new tech evangelists at the RSS advisory group to contribute to the next generation (RSS-3 or RSS-4). Last but not least, users will need to keep using RSS readers and connectors. In the age of AI, let’s keep the flow alive. Don’t let RSS fade away!

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Dimitri Pletschette 🚀 LinkedIn | Medium | X | Microsoft | Mastodon

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Dimitri Pletschette

Dad, Husband, Blogger, Digital Product Manager and Technology Enthusiast. Follow 👉 https://dimitripletschette.com