Brian Feeney


RSS is still with us. It remains a major backbone of the internet as we know it. I'd love to say RSS is going strong, but that feels a stretch. The truth is that RSS has been shouldered to the curb by the popularity of social networks which are fundamentally antagonistic to the open web. They took the promise of Real Simple Syndication, and trapped its essence inside little prisons. Walled gardens, we call them, generously. While most people are happy in their little boxes, thousands of us are out here publishing our own websites on the open web, with the freedom and experimentation of the early internet. This is something to celebrate.

RSS on the open web continues because it's useful, it's reliable, and enough of us care about it to keep it going. We love our websites, and RSS helps make us a community. RSS ties us together, and I want to build an app which breathes new life into those connections. An app which could make those ties stronger. An app which might return personal blogs and websites — even major news and magazine publications — back to an even playing field with Facebook and Twitter.

I think a way to do this is to take what makes major social networks easy to use, and apply that to an RSS reader. Normal people will never care about RSS. But we do. We care about our favorite writers, and our favorite publications. We care about RSS. We care about the open web.

Feeeds prioritizes the people over the tech. It puts our names and faces on the surface. This is why I call Feeeds "a newsreader for writers." While RSS feeds are impersonal, the writing in those feeds are us. RSS is just plumbing, so we need a tool which humanizes that tech. We want to present faces and names instead of .xml and .rss files. Feeeds is that tool.

How It Works

The first step after signing into Feeeds is to attach your RSS feeds to that account. It might be one RSS feed. It might be five or more. Feeeds then offers two ways for your followers to access your RSS: either by viewing them in the reader view of the app, or by copying a bundled RSS feed and using that in the RSS reader of their choice.

How many readers have you lost over the years because you've changed your RSS feed location, or you started writing in a different blog or on another URL? The onus is on your readers to find any new RSS feeds you might have made. But, if your readers are using your up-to-date Feeeds feed, you can be sure you will always reach them. You won't have to rely on them finding your new RSS feed and adding it again to their RSS readers. They would be following you, not your RSS feeds directly. You.

Again, what Feeeds offers the open web, is a way for readers to follow people, to follow bloggers, authors, or journalists. If you have control over your RSS feeds, you can help your readers follow you better. They'll be connected to you, not your blog.

Are you a journalist who sometimes writes for multiple publications? Add the RSS feeds for your bylines to your Feeeds account. Be sure that your readers will always see what you publish, no matter which masthead it might be under. Do you run multiple blogs? Maybe one for personal use, one for your professional life, and others for side projects? Feeeds allows you one place to collect them, allowing others to find your scattered work easily. Perhaps they will find RSS feeds you produce they didn't even know existed.

Other Opportunities Feeeds Could Offer

Once all of these feeds exist in one place, tons of cool things can be done with them. So many great features could be built upon the vast array of RSS feeds inside the app.

  • Shareable bundles of feed groups
  • Monetization of feeds through paid access to untruncated feeds
  • Better search of open-web blogs via categorization and tags. This would include recommendations, or integration with Twitter/Facebook/contacts to discover RSS feeds belonging to people you are following elsewhere.
  • Auto-notifications for when your URL appears in another Feeeds RSS post. And tons more linking features on top of this.
  • Analytics for reader count, read count, "faved" posts, etc.

If you're interested, I have a giant Trello board full of ideas.

The Feeeds Newsreader

It would make sense for Feeeds to also be a newsreader itself. Once hundreds, thousands, or millions of feeds have been added to Feeeds, the most convenient place to read those feeds would be in that app. Newsreaders aren't highly complex applications, but, if designed well, they can open up tons of channels for discovery and curation. Users should be able to group their feeds by dozens of different categories: friends, family, publications, colleagues, industry, topics, etc.

The great thing about Feeeds is that it doesn't require any changes to RSS protocol, nor prescribes how anyone should run their own sites. It merely puts a more personal face to the technical nerdery that is RSS. And it's voluntary. You choose to put your feeds into Feeeds. Feeeds becomes an index of open web websites owned by people who want to be discovered, who want to be seen as a member of the open web community.

I've designed a Version 1.0.0 of the Feeeds app. I'll add a bunch of views below. But I don't have anyone to help me build it. If you're a developer and would love to work with me on this, please get in touch! If you know someone who might be interested in this project, please share this post! I'd love for Feeeds to become my full time job, but at this point, I'd be grateful if it were just a fun side project. I designed it six years ago. It's time for it to become a real thing!

August 18, 2020