Google today released a new version of Google Chrome for Windows. (The Mac version is coming later this year, Google promises.) Like its predecessors, this one also fails to support RSS natively in the browser — which means that, when you follow a link to an RSS feed, you get unreadable text on the screen, unlike in Firefox, IE, and Safari.
But does it matter? Has RSS jumped the shark? Or has it become so much a part of the Internet’s plumbing that we don’t actually use it, directly and intentionally, anymore?
As strong an advocate of RSS as I’ve been, I’m increasingly thinking that RSS, as a tool for the end user, is on the decline if not on the outs. As a tool for publishers to make their content available to other publishers and services it’s on the rise — but Jane Netizen doesn’t care, or need to care, what happens behind the scenes to get information from place to place.
Twitter, Facebook, and friend-enabled tools across the network are increasingly determining what each of us reads. What you or I stumble on (and then tweet, post, recommend, Digg, etc.) becomes what our friends looks at, and our friends’ friends, and their friends if it’s a really good (or funny) item.
I know I’ve fallen weeks behind in my feed reading; I cherry pick items from the flow in Twitter and Facebook, but rarely go on a full-fledged harvest for myself. I suppose it’s not all bad, but I ponder the effect of group think on my discovery of the new. I read what my friends read and recommend — and rarely, compared to a year or two ago, discover things in a self-directed (or self-misdirected) way.