Another spotlight on RSS
Substack, on a blog post published on what is essentially they “product blog,” where by “blog” I mean “newsletter,” and by “blog post” I mean “newsletter issue” (but you see what I mean):
There’s a new reading experience waiting for you at Substack.com. Now you can read all your Substack subscriptions—and more—in a clean, simple, and fast web reader. Everything stays in-sync with your Substack app for iOS.
Want to add a publication from outside Substack? No problem—just select “Add RSS feed” from the left sidebar.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one end I want to say “finally” — what took them so long to add such a simple feature to a web app that was basically already a feed reader? — on the other end, I’m a bit annoyed by the way Substack seems to introduce this feature:
For those with fond memories of Google Reader, we hope this scratches an itch and brings some welcome additions.
It is obviously great news for those who already use Substack Reader: they are now able, if they want, to get rid of an extra app dedicated to RSS, and just use Substack Reader. What I don’t understand is the idea that people were somehow missing RSS and were waiting for Substack to bring it back? Is it what Substack’s “blog post” subtlety implies or am I misreading this?
Also, Google Reader lasted 8 years and closed almost ten years ago. Since its release in 2005, we have spent more time without it than with it. Maybe we can stop mentioning it every time we talk about RSS? Twenty-year-olds won’t even know what Google Reader is. Maybe at this point it would be wise to explain what RSS is and mention existing apps like Feedbin, NetNewsWire, Feeder, etc., instead of constantly referring to a product that has been dead for a decade.
Well, I’m probably reading too much into this. Substack is adding an RSS feature to their app, it’s very cool, end of the story. Their Reader app was always interesting to me in that regard: it reinforced the idea of having a place on the web to centralise all your “feeds” (for Substack obviously newsletter subscriptions), like an RSS reader would, which felt surprising and weirdly bold from a company revolving around email newsletters.
Now I just hope this web app will continue to blur the lines between newsletters and blogs, that it will persuade more people to use RSS, and that the subtitle of the article — “Revenge of the RSS” — will eventually happen. For those who were already using an RSS reader alongside Substack Reader, I’d be curious to see if you end up using the feature.
On a final note, I now hope more than ever that Apple will bring back an RSS feature to the Mail app.
UPDATE — This RSS feature is actually not new on Substack Reader: reading their announcement I felt this was a new feature but when I went to see what it looked like using my old Substack account, I noticed I already had RSS feeds in the Reader. Therefore the Google Reader comment is maybe just about the keyboard shortcuts? This below is from the Substack Reader announcement, on December 16th, 2020:
Reader also comes with RSS support, so you can really have all your subscriptions in one place.
Sorry for the confusion, but, looking at the comments, it seems that most users are reading this as a new feature announcement, and sadly behaving like I feared: like RSS was missing for all those years since the end of Google Reader and celebrating this new feature as a RSS “comeback,” ignoring all the great RSS apps that have been available all along. Sigh.