When I speak at conferences or training seminars, I ask who in the room has heard of RSS. Despite the fact it’s been around for close to a decade, generally less than 10% of attendees are aware of it.
I always explain that RSS lowers barriers: people no longer need to go to many different websites to see if there are updates: the updates come to them. They can get them in email or via a feed reader (I use Google Reader).
And then I tell them about Twitter: people get updates from trusted friends about what they’re reading or have written: the updates come to them. They can get them on their phone, in email or via a twitter client (I use Seesmic Desktop).
For awhile, I subscribed to Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategist blog, and I followed him on Twitter. When he wrote a new blog post, he’d tweet about it, and I’d go read it. Later when I checked Google Reader, the same post would show up. While a feed reader program prevents me from having to go to multiple sites, I still have to go to one. (Note: when I had a PC I used the Feedreader client, which popped up a notification when the feeds I subscribed to were updated. This overcomes this challenge). With an omnipresent twitter client, I get immediate notification when a friend tweets a link.
Twitter also helps filter the information we receive. With an RSS subscription, we get every post. With Twitter, we either see posts that our friends recommend, or have written themselves. We make the choice to click-through, but there is already some vetting that occurs.
Now this is a consideration: when I go to my Google Reader, it’s because I have the time and attention to read a post. With Twitter there is the chance that a tweet will pass me by when I’m not ready to check it out. Personally, I use the “favorites” feature of twitter to keep track of links that I want to come back to later.
So will (or has) Twitter replace RSS as a way for people to get notification of updated content online? What do you think?