The blogosphere is abuzz lately about the latest trend: “RSS is Dead,” everyone says.  Other blogs say “RSS isn’t dead.” (of which side I tend to agree with).  The debate lies with the fact that more and more people are starting to use Twitter, Twitter lists, Facebook, and other social means to just get the news from the streams they follow on these sites rather than typical RSS Readers like Google Reader.  For instance, even on my own Google Reader shares, you can get them right on my @jesseslinks Twitter stream if you don’t ever want to touch Google Reader (yet I’m still using Google Reader to provide those to you).  Whatever side you agree with, I just discovered one thing we’ll all be able to agree with: at least on its own site in the new design, Twitter has quite literally killed RSS.  Into thin air it’s gone in the new UI.

I talked previously about Twitter increasingly becoming less and less open and more and more a walled garden.  Facebook itself just added RSS to its feeds for Facebook Pages and opened its database so you can reformat their content, so long as users approve, in any way you like.  It appears, as no surprise, Twitter is moving in the opposite direction.  In the new design I can’t find an RSS feed anywhere.  Previously there was a link to the lower-right allowing you to add an RSS feed.  They also had a link to the RSS in the source of the HTML so your browser would automatically recognize the feed, and just entering the URL for the user profile into Google Reader, they could automatically detect the feed for you.

Currently the only way to find an RSS feed is to log out and visit the profile of the user when you’re not logged into Twitter.  This might also be why Google Reader still recognizes feeds when you enter user profile URLs in the “Add Subscription” box.  Firefox doesn’t recognize the feed when I’m logged in – it does when I’m not.  It does make you wonder how long the RSS feed will be in the unauthenticated version.

It’s hard to tell if this is intentional or not, but we do know Twitter wants to be a source for news.  Perhaps they think this is in their best interest – the harder they make it for you to read your news elsewhere, the more likely you are to come to Twitter.com to read your news from your friends.  One thing is for sure however – the new Twitter design is certainly less open than it was before.  Twitter, especially with the new design, is now a walled garden.

I’ve contacted Twitter about this and will update here with any response.

UPDATE: For some reason Twitter’s PR never responded.  However, even better, Isaac Hepworth, a developer from Twitter, responded on Buzz, inferring some of it was a mistake, while some of it was intentional to make things simpler:

“Hey Ade, thanks for the cc and sorry for the delay jumping in. I’ve been talking to people internally to work out what happened here so that I could untangle it properly.

Here’s the scoop: the RSS itself is still there (as Jesse’s roundabout method for finding it shows). Two things were removed in #NewTwitter:
1. The hyperlink to the RSS on the profile page; and
2. The link to the RSS in the profile page metadata (ie. the element in the ).

(2) was wholly accidental, and we’ll fix that. In the meantime, Jesse’s way of finding the RSS is as good as any, and you can still subscribe to user timelines in products like Google Reader by just adding a subscription to the profile URL, eg. http://twitter.com/isaach.

(1) on the other hand was deliberate, in line with the “keep Twitter simple” principle which we used to approach the product as a whole. Identifying RSS for a page and exposing it to users per their preferences is a job which most browsers now do well on their own based on s.

Hope that helps!”