9 May 2011 2 pm eastern

Twitter and Facebook Kill RSS

It seems Twitter has completely removed the ability to consume their feeds via the open standard of RSS in favor of their more proprietary API formats. At the same time, Facebook seems to have done the same.

via Stay N Alive: Twitter and Facebook Both Quietly Kill RSS, Completely.

Filed under: Standards, State of the Web

38 Responses to “Twitter and Facebook Kill RSS”

  1. zsombor markus said on

    i even follow youtube channels and some tumblr blogs via rss instead of subscribing the proper way. it’s just damn annoying to log on to many different platforms. i hope killing rss won’t become a popular trend. somebody should step up for rss and make it mainstream. casual users have no clue what it is. sad, cos it’s an amazing technology. sure way to get all the relevant news, and probably the fastest also. i could settle for a solution where the reader platform connects to twitter and facebook via their native login but blends in with the other feeds

  2. Justin said on

    Like most everything else, the web will someday be completely privatized as well. Wow, what a depressing thought.

  3. Hassan Elousami said on

    Twitter, Facebook and to a certain extent Google are shaping up the new “reality” in the WWW. If you have something to say, you “do” it through their gates, the rest (what floats outside their world) will end up in the bin. What if they swallow each other ??

  4. Christopher said on

    @ markus:
    It begins with the name. RSS sounds like a Soviet propaganda organ or something like that. ‘Atom sounds much better.

    @ Justin:
    Not in Europe. Not in China. Anyway, the web is only the web as long at it is the web.

    @ Hassan:
    Only as long as they are better than the open web. If the gatekeepers don’t provide a better mix of features than some decentralized alternative, they will get replaced. The net that transports ‘leaks’* will win, always. Because it is the one people are interested in.

    *’leaks can mean a lot. Beautifull pictures for instance.

  5. Devon Young said on

    RSS and Atom would have a sudden revival if the big companies could make advertising $$$ from it.

  6. Grant Hutchinson said on

    The Twitter RSS feeds are still available, they’re just not published directly in a link element or anywhere on the web page proper. It’s a bit of a kludge, but feeds still abound.

    To access a user’s stream via RSS, you must first determine their user ID from their screen name, for example:

    https://api.twitter.com/1/users/show.json?screen_name=splorp

    One you have the user ID, you can use this URI to obtain the RSS feed:

    http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/user_id.rss

    Substituting .rss for .atom will return the applicable feed type.

    You can also pass terms into the Twitter search engine:

    http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=MessagePad

  7. John Romkey said on

    How peculiar that the RSS feeds from Twitter and Facebook that one of my sites reads are still working just fine!

  8. Srphea said on

    The flaw with Facebook and Twitter, is that you’re most likely to miss many posts, unlike with RSS :)

  9. Srphea said on

    @Christopher BTW, URSS is the French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese term of USSR…

  10. KevinMcD said on

    Hopefully, the real web won’t be subsumed by the likes of Facebook as Justin suggests. The beauty of open standard technologies like RSS, is that they are APIs for the rest of us.

  11. Jeff Croft said on

    The beauty of open standard technologies like RSS, is that they are APIs for the rest of us.

    No.

    It’s nice that RSS and Atom are standard, open formats, but they’re not comparable to a REST API. For starters, an RSS feed only holds x number of entries, whereas, for example, the API allows you to get at the entire history of a user’s timeline, the results of a search, etc.

    There are a lot of great things about RSS and Atom. Acting as an API is not one of them. The same can be said about Microformats. If you want an API, have an API. Don’t try to shoehorn HTML or RSS or Atom into being one, because they’re not. Not even close.

  12. Andy Hume said on

    Jeff has a point that RSS feeds are not a fully fledged APIs in the traditional sense, but they are a foundational part of the web of data – certainly as it exists at the moment. When Kevin says they are ‘APIs for the rest of us’ he simply means that they are a mechanism through which applications can easily access Twitter’s content. Jeff, I think you’re being a little exacting by jumping in and reminding us all what API really means. :)

    I’m not surprised to read in Grant’s comment that they have not actually been switched-off, just removed from certain UIs. If the former *were* true this would have an impact on the tens of thousands of sites that must be consuming Twitter’s RSS. Mine included.

  13. Christopher Beckwith said on

    I’m still able to access Twitter RSS feeds, they are simply not as published. And Facebook Feeds have always taken some digging but if you are logged into your Profiles or Fan page, there are RSS feeds available for both under notifications.

    Those feeds are how countless third party apps function such as Lifestream.

    I love Twitter and the necessary evil that is Facebook, but consume far more for my 100s of feeds in Google RSS Reader than I quickly scan titles every few hours. I still see no valid alternative to RSS yet.

  14. Immysl said on

    @Christopher Google Reader is my favourite as well. Let’s you find all the new articles of the blogs you follow and also let’s you make Twitter streams to follow. I think it supports streams for Facebook as well. It’s a one-stop-shop for all.

  15. Don Ulrich said on

    Isn’t Tumblr’s API output delivered in XML?

    I realize a feed is not a API but that does not preclude data from being output as XML which is easy to use and friendly. Don’t confuse the two.

  16. Don Ulrich said on

    @Jeff
    Just thinking how RSS could be an output API…The only limitation
    is the programmer. RSS file could deliver a queried output against a url. Simple and to the point. Does not have be a ‘spec’ to be an API.

  17. Rob Scott said on

    We use RSS to deliver a lot of items (including search results feeds, which some suggest is impossible above!) however, users don’t consume them anything like as reasily as they hit the FB and Twitter buttons. It is a shame, as RSS is more powerful, and can be highly effective for delivering, but, in my opinion, the next generation of web users won’t know what RSS is – most of the current gen don’t.

  18. KevinMcD said on

    Thanks Andy, at least someone got the gist!

  19. Denender said on

    For Daily Facebook News Visit:

    http://www.facebooknews-lovely.blogspot.com

  20. graham said on

    I disagree, having read this post in my RSS.

    Although Facebook and Twitter are useful additional marketing tools I’m more likely to see an article via an RSS feed than my Twitter, in which links to posts are frequently missed amongst more mundane content.

  21. Trace Meek said on

    TW & FB would probably like for us to think of them as the new standards (even as proprietary as they are). Relatedly, I was just watching Guy Kawasaki talk about how his goal for his Alltop (all topics) website was to be a sort of RSS aggregator with a UI that regular web browsing folks could comprehend; people for whom RSS seemed too complicated.

  22. Ryan Cannon said on

    What percentage of users would have to use RSS feeds before it would make sense for Twitter to maintain support for—and clutter their UI with links to—RSS feeds?

    80%? 50%? 20%? 1?

    It’s hard to imagine that their usage was even that high. As much as I like and use RSS, it’s not a technology that works for the mainstream. I can’t blame them for cutting it.

  23. Maura Christopher said on

    I’m trying to create an rss feed from a twitter list I put together. I can get a feed for our twitter account using the user id number… thanks for the information! But I can’t seem to get a user id number for a twitter roll list we created. How I can do this? Thanks.

  24. Dave Winer said on

    “the next generation of web users won’t know what RSS is – most of the current gen don’t.”

    Most of them don’t know what a web browser is, either.

    Doesn’t mean they could use the web without one. :-)

  25. Adnan said on

    @zsombor markus

    I am planning a system where static data of sites(news, announcements etc) will be transformed into RSS format. It will really help to promote business who are still not relying on backend databases.

  26. Jeff Croft said on

    @Don Ulrich-

    You’ve got a point. It’s certainly possible to have an API that outputs RSS or RSS-like XML. But Twitter’s didn’t, and that’s not the common use for RSS at all. So when I say “RSS is not an API,” I really mean “the common use of RSS is not nearly as robust or useful as an API.” :)

  27. UK said on

    Pretty sure us UK peeps can’t comment on your blog. Let’s find out if that is still the case.

  28. Alex Kessinger said on

    I am much less worried about Facebook feeds disappearing then Twitter feeds. If you look at the differences between Twitter, and Facebook. Especially if you look at them in the terms of mediums, it is much harder to consume Facebook through RSS. There is just so many interconnected and horizontally contextualized updates. The context of updates is extremely hard to connect to an RSS entry. On the other hand the context of twitter is the statues. Twitters nature is very similar to blogs. Not that blogs are the only thing that can use RSS. It’s just that RSS lends it’s self to anything that can carry it’s own context.

    Even blogs have a hard time carrying context in each post. I think this is why when you find someone who enjoys blogs, enjoys RSS, and often uses google reader they have figured out the context problem. It’s probably because they have taken the time to figure out the context, and possibly because they read so many blogs, the blogosphere becomes it’s own context.

    I can see how RSS is a hard sell now days, especially inside small growing companies. Few people use it. I think it’s shortsighted though, because the people who use RSS, are probably those hyper connected curators, who can create waves, and increase a websites usage through other means.

    Just so anyone is wondering you can still using something like this to get RSS out of twitter. If your twitter name is voidfiles you can get an RSS feed for that username likes this. Who knows how long this will stay up.

    http://twitter.com/status/user_timeline/voidfiles.rss

  29. Marc Drummond said on

    Facebook and Twitter are now what email would have been if the only way you could get email was through AOL.

    Twitter particularly disappoints me. It held such promise as a pretty open format with so many ways to use it. Now the money men are in charge, and Twitter is losing its way.

    I use RSS (well, Atom) on one site extensively. I find it invaluable. Technology changes, but this saddens me.

  30. Immysl said on

    @Marc You can’t blame Twitter for that, right? Without a feasible business model their chance of surviving in the long-run is not much. Or else, they will have to sell it to a big company like Microsoft or Google.

  31. Chris Lee said on

    Welcome to the new Web 4.0 (a la Netscape 4.0)

    Apple Corporation will own all rights to users computers, as well as their location. Trying to change the battery or adjust the screen resolution will result in immediate imprisonment and a visit from the Cupertino goon squad.

    Facebook will own and run everyone’s social connections. Permission to send a photo to Mom must be made 30 days in advance via the Ministry of Zuckerberg.

    Google will allow you to search for your content all owned and managed through proprietary systems. But only if you complete a 27b/6.

    Web pages, blogs, RSS, .PNG format, HTML, CSS, web browsers, zeldman.com, and all open standards are now dead. Eric Meyer now working as head designer on Zuckerberg’s dog’s ‘beast’ web page. His FBML must be stamped and accompanied by the 27b/6 and only use pre-approved Facebook colors and HEX or RGB values are now illegal.

    Microsoft will be releasing via the underground and piratebay their Office 2017 (totally illegal because it resides on your own computer and still allows copy/paste of your own content from one window to another)

    Somewhere, Tim Berners-Lee is crying.

  32. Dave Winer said on

    BTW, neither Twitter or Facebook allow designers to create templates for them the way blogs do. Imagine a headline like the one for this piece with CSS in place of RSS.

  33. RSS and CSS and Zeldman | Echo of Scripting News said on

    [...] on Zeldman’s blog, a post with a heartbreaking [...]

  34. testbeta said on

    maybe not the new version of twitter but the old one still provides rss feeds

  35. Twitter and Facebook Are Bad for the Web « Brett L Williams said on

    [...] Dave Winer at Scripting News made a very important comment on Zeldman’s Twitter and Facebook Kill RSS [...]

  36. pd said on

    Simple answer: stop using those sites. I never have and never will.

  37. Ben Ward said on

    Couple of notes about the Twitter implementation:

    • We still have RSS and Atom feeds, but since they’re implemented as part of the API (they always have been), they also require going through OAuth to get content that’s available to you as a user (the protected tweets of people you follow, for example.) Individual user feeds can be subscribed to without auth, though.
    • The links to the feeds got removed from the UI because it was found that when the page context is swapped around with JavaScript (as it now is on Twitter) browser’s feed discovery UI doesn’t reliably update to reflect the changes. This results in broken UI, where unrelated feeds are shown out of context.

    This does not mean that anyone thinks putting Twitter content in an Atom feed isn’t useful, and there are plenty of us who like them, use them, and would like to do more with them.

  38. Charlie said on

    Individual user feeds can be subscribed to without auth, though.

    I made a little Twitter RSS getter to do this, if its any help to anyone.

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