From Marco.org (via Barry Ritholtz) comes another rabble-rousing post on RSS, the death of Google Reader, and the open web vs Facebook and its would-be clones:
The bigger problem is that [the big players] abandoned interoperability [with their current APIs]. RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).
Google resisted this trend admirably for a long time and was very geek- and standards-friendly, but not since Facebook got huge enough to effectively redefine the internet and refocus Google’s plans to be all-Google+, all the time.
RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.
That world formed the web’s foundations — without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn’t exist. But they’ve now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. "Sunset" it. "Clean it up." "Retire" it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.
I think that the presence or absence of an RSS feed (whether I actually use it or not) is a good litmus test for how a service treats my data.
Instagram doesn’t provide an RSS feed of my uploaded photos.
Twitter doesn’t provide an RSS feed of my tweets.
Facebook doesn’t provide an RSS feed of my band’s updates
It might be that RSS is the canary in the coal mine for my data on the web.
Canaries and litmus tests are a mixed metaphor but you get the point.