Why are Facebook and Twitter killing their RSS feeds?

Just seen this excellent piece by Clare White about the virtues of RSS particularly now that Facebook and Twitter seem to be quietly killing their RSS feeds.

I was going to leave a comment but instead opted to write here. White says:

At risk of sounding hopelessly naive, I don’t know why Twitter and Facebook would restrict the free flow of headlines via RSS. Sure, in Twitter’s case the headline is basically the whole tweet and it may be about attracting people to their website where they can see advertising, but this risks alienating many users. RSS remains the best way for content to be shared and fed through to multiple platforms.

Facebook are trying to compete with the open web and offer the whole experience there. Facebook.com is a – pretty seductive but ultimately inferior – second web.

Facebook the company are happy to use the architecture of the web but would much rather you experience it in their garden. That’s why they don’t want to offer RSS.

I have friends who land on Facebook as their default home page and largely equate Facebook with the web. That’s perfect. For Facebook. More generally I think people undervalue RSS because they haven’t tried it or they’ve been lured away by RSS-lite systems like the Twitter or Facebook feeds. That goes for tech journalists too, the people who should be highlighting how important this is.

Where Facebook does play with the open web – identity system, like buttons, comment system and so on – it’s in an attempt to make websites and their visitors more dependent on Facebook. And to bridge people into their experience.

I don’t know exactly what Twitter are planning but I know they were a promising start-up with a variety of monetisation options they could have chosen but are now essentially an advertising company, as Facebook are. So probably the same.

White also highlights the tension between the “privacy settings” and the open web:

Twitter cited security concerns, but Twitter is a tool for sharing content with the option of setting updates to private if you want to. In the same way, there is no particular reason why RSS shouldn’t also be available from Facebook pages and groups unless they are explicitly set to private. It’s an important part of web literacy to understand that if you wouldn’t share something in earshot of people you don’t know in real life, you shouldn’t share it online. That still leaves a lot that we want to share.

The designers of these systems often make the mistake, or perpetuate the untruth, that privacy is merely a set of software options. Privacy on the web is really about us, the users, understanding what we’re getting into and being in true control of our information sharing. By this definition, Facebook in particular fail big time with their privacy offering. Of course, their interests are not aligned with your interests in controlling your privacy. It benefits the company if there is personal information on there which has been posted in trust.

Thing is, if Facebook and Twitter were totally public it probably would have been better for people’s privacy.

(Diolch Rhys am y dolen.)

2 Comments

  1. Posted 11 Mai 2011 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

    It’s possible to find twitter RSS feeds easily by using the Twitter API.

    The RSS feed for Metastwnsh can be found by visiting: https://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=metastwnsh

    so, if you want the RSS feed for a particular user, just change the screen_name value.

    In addition, further reading on Twitter and Facebook killing RSS can be found here.

  2. Posted 12 Mai 2011 at 9:45 AM | Permalink

    Nice post, I agree with you. I use an RSS reader to keep up with blogs, and I check Twitter a lot (mostly on my phone when I’m out and about, or if I want to connect to a particular topic like #royalwedding or a conference I’m at).
    I’m getting to the point where I sort of forget Facebook is there. I think we will start to see a split with Facebook. Either people will lead their whole online life through its portal, or just start ignoring it. I suspect the tech types and early adopters will be on the ignoring it side in general!

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