Twitter and Facebook Both Quietly Kill RSS, Completely – Stay N Alive

Twitter and Facebook Both Quietly Kill RSS, Completely

Last year I shared how Twitter was moving more and more towards a closed, less-standards oriented model of sharing content as they upgraded their design to bring more people to the website. At that time, they removed the prominent RSS icons and made it only possible to access an RSS feed for an individual by logging completely out of Twitter, and visiting that individual’s profile page. After reading my post, Isaac Hepworth, a developer for Twitter, tried to comfort me in a response to my post on Buzz, saying:

“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.
(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!”

Unfortunately, it seems #2 was not accidental, as it was never fixed. Now #1 is also removed as far as I can see (and looking at the HTML source I see no evidence of any RSS feed). It seems Twitter has completely removed the ability to consume their feeds via the open standard of RSS in favor of their more proprietary API formats.

At the same time, Facebook seems to have done the same. Facebook has gone back and forth on this though so it is no surprise on their part. They started with an RSS link you could subscribe to on profiles (this for awhile was how you added your feed to FriendFeed), but didn’t seem to have similar for Pages. Later, in a Profile redesign they completely removed the RSS link for profiles. Then, in a recent Page redesign, they added the ability to subscribe to Pages via RSS. I know because I had several Pages added to Google Reader, and I remember fishing through the HTML source and seeing the RSS link in the code. It would seem that Facebook has again removed the ability to subscribe via RSS on Pages, completely removing any ability to subscribe via RSS on the site (also in favor of their proprietary Graph API).

People have been speculating, “RSS is dead” for some time now. I’ve written that RSS isn’t dead, but the concept of “subscribing” is. However, as more and more sites move away from RSS, quite literally, in favor of these proprietary APIs I fear RSS could in fact be dying, not only as a subscription interface, but as a protocol in general.

My hope is that both of these sites overlooked keeping RSS subscription in place as they upgraded their interfaces. But seeing as I’m the only one who noticed, I have a feeling they have little reason to re-add the open protocol back into their interface. Personally, I think it’s a shame, as it makes it so only developers like myself can code anything to extract that data – the average user has no way of pulling that data out of Twitter or Facebook.

It seems in 2011 and the era of Facebook and Twitter we’ve completely lost any care for open standards. Maybe it’s not just RSS that is dying – it’s the entire premise of open standards that is dying, and I think that’s really sad, and really bad for not just developers, but users in general.

Am I missing something here? Where can I subscribe, via RSS, to Facebook or Twitter?

UPDATE: Dave Stevens shared a hack around this in the comments that you can use with the Twitter API. It’s not readily available to users, and based on Twitter’s current trend, could go away, but it works for now:

“Can can access RSS through the twitter API, if you read the documentation you are able to choose rss/atom for the feed options in some of the cases; for example:
is my home timeline in rss format. So although they may have removed links from the pages there is still a method to get at it. (

UPDATE 2: In case you were wondering about Twitter’s attitude towards RSS, read this Help article in their Help section titled, “How to Find Your RSS Feed“:

“Twitter recently stopped supporting basic authentication over RSS in favor of OAuth, an authentication method that lets you use applications without giving them your password. You can read more about the change here: 

Because of this change, we no longer directly support RSS feeds on Twitter. 

  • If you would like to continue using RSS feeds from Twitter accounts, we recommend using a 3rd-party service.
  • Or, if you are comfortable with coding, use our developer resources to retrieve statuses.

113 thoughts on “Twitter and Facebook Both Quietly Kill RSS, Completely

  1. I noticed it as well and got pretty disappointed.
    But there is still an option to subscribe to Twitter accounts via RSS: At least in Google Reader you can simply add a subscription via the old profile URL e.g.
    Of course the fact that this isn't documented anywhere on the Twitter site means that hardly anybody will do that, and I'm afraid Twitter might kill this option as well some day in the future.

  2. Unfortunately, the big guys (twitter and Facebook) donthave any incentive at using rss feeds. There goal is to keep the developer crowd captive and forcing them to use their Apis is just a way of doing that.
    What's more scary is to see all the smaller, more recently launched services do the same : foursquare, instagram….of course, they too want to lock devs, but it's certainly not that easy. Eventually, interoperability on the web will disapear as the effort to build and maintain services that consume and publish data from different services I'll become harder and harder.
    It probably sounds overly pessimistic, but there are already web apps that only work on iOS devices, and we may at some point have to use a different “browser” to consume different apps.

    To prevent this, I hope that the huge crowd of “small 3rd party developers” and the smaller web apps start pushing for open standards again, with little or no coupling to a specific platform.

  3. Yes, it makes sense that they would eventually want to restrict the content generated on their sites. So many other sites were/are operational by simply linking to the RSS. In the beginning, that exposure probably helped Twitter and Facebook, but now it's there content to lose. It's sad and I miss it, too.

  4. Interesting – Google must either be using the Twitter API to get that, or
    they still have the old RSS feed cached and the link still works.

  5. I think, for me, this comes down to the sort of media RSS is suited to. I wouldn't personally choose to subscribe to a persons profile feed, as status updates and the like seem almost irrelevant and disjointed when out of the context of a social network.

    RSS is still an integral part of any blog, and I suspect always will be… Being much less frequent and more likely to warrant a click through, with few social actions tied to the content, that's where RSS makes sense to me.

  6. I think this really comes down to different usage patterns. RSS is great for things like blogs. Typically, blogs do not have a full featured API to pull from, or at least not an easy way to pull the newest entries. Twitter and Facebook have fairly complete APIs that allow you to do various things, and the RSS feature is covered by the API. You could consider this just some code simplification because RSS feeds for users may not be heavily used. I am not saying I like it, but it does make sense.

  7. I wonder how much of the motivation to discontinue RSS is that they don't know who the viewers are. Many recent services include interaction as part of their product: how many people viewed, who they are and whether their interests overlap. They also increasingly target ads based on who the viewer is.

    With RSS, the entity fetching the feed is likely not the end user. Once syndicated they lose all information about who is seeing it.

  8. That's a good point. While I love RSS for my blogs, and it makes the ability to read blogs really convenient, as a blogger myself that's one of the frustrations with RSS. The inability to know who the viewer is.

    That being said, I wouldn't give it up for anything. But as others say below, I don't think it works very well for social networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc), just because it removes any context, follow-up comments, and the like.

  9. I'm guessing this only works for Twitter-accounts that someone previously had subscribed to in GoogleReader. Google Reader caches Feeds and Feed-URLs.

  10. I think it's a particular shame in the case of Twitter. Lists would be more useful with RSS. I am leaning toward StatusNet more and more. I may be in the minority, but there are enough people on StatusNet to keep me interested. I would rather put my energy into something more open. Twitter used openness to draw people in; now they are going for proprietary lock-in. That may work to suck money out of the company, but soon all my tweets will be saying “Come join me on

  11. Looks like the XML part of Twitter API works for everything, but the RSS only works for profile stream. Anyone know an easy way to convert the XML into a feed? I tried Pipes, but there's a robots.txt file that disallows it.

  12. I actually think you're misinterpreting the reasoning here. Today JSON based APIs are quite a bit more powerful than RSS feeds and have become preferred by the vast majority of developers when building on the platforms you mentioned. This means that it's worth investing more time and energy into APIs over feeds. So I don't think it's that anyone is looking to actively remove feeds, rather they're just stagnating over time as more functionality is built into APIs.

  13. Twitter has removed the links – it's a Twitter problem, even if you can hack
    it to work. The fact that you have to hack it means it's a problem on
    Twitter's end.

  14. I'm not sure JSON is more powerful than Atom. They're both languages to represent data, so I think they can both do pretty much what is needed…

    However, what I know is that a large majority of sites use Atom as their schema, while I think FB is the only service using FB's json format… which means that it's hard for me (or anyone) to build something _for the web_, as compared to _for facebook_.

    I'd be thrilled to use JSON instead of Atom (yeah, even me can get tired of XML's verboseness), but I don't think I will be able to build (and maintain) something that works for every single API and JSON schema out there.
    So, if you guys want to use JSON, you'd better start evangelizing and get the rest of the world to use your schema!

    I don't care at all about the language and the schema, I just want that everybody uses the same, and I don't see any effort from FB or Twitter to make a format that is compatible with the rest of the web (let alone between them!).

  15. I wouldn't personally choose to subscribe to a persons profile feed…”

    This reminds me: Twitter got into some hot water recently over privacy issues. This silent move might have something to do with those issues since anyone can access a timeline via RSS.

  16. I think there is need for a JSON feed standard though. There is a lot of
    benefit to similar APIs all being based on a similar standard. It means your
    users can pull content and put it into any associated reader that supports
    that standard and do cool things with that data. With proprietary APIs the
    users get stuck in the tug-o-war. I'd really love to see Facebook take
    leadership in this area.

  17. I think that's the difference between a format and a protocol. JSON and XML
    are formats. RSS and Atom are protocols. I'd love to see Facebook and
    Twitter adopt open protocols in addition to open formatting standards. (my
    terminology may be wrong here though)

  18. Both Twitter and Facebook want to be landing pages not link destinations, that's their strategy and they have the power to do so. I still get much of my news from both of those sites via RSS collection and filtering. Closing the RSS feedloop would not kill either of these social giants by any stretch but it would not kill RSS either. The “Live Stream” does not work as effectively as RSS IMO when one tries to cover a large collection of sources. I think its a shame that these two giants have decided to hide the RSS features but I also understand that RSS is not mainstream to the more Farmville-oriented audience. I just hope they don't stop the RSS feeds completely because they are very useful id you know and care about them.

  19. @julien51:disqus I don’t know, we’re at a point where integration and interoperability have never been stronger. You can tell because many services are offering up APIs where they used to be closed off (use my stuff in my house as opposed to use my stuff in your house). RSS is a niche technology which most consumers don’t really understand, but they do understand following people via Twitter or Facebook.

    Not that I think there’s a chance that RSS will go away completely, but I think that there is a better chance of more and more services offering APIs to serve the same content more effectively.I don’t think there’s a danger that we will go back to the old way of having services exist in their own space. I mean sure, Twitter could just turn around and blacklist all of the apps that weren’t controlled by it, but in doing so would alienate users and developers who invested time and money into using and developing those services. With the Internet, a competing service is only a click away.Convergence is the future; I reckon that consuming media from different services is only going to become better, faster and easier than ever before.

  20. Twitter and Facebook want you locked into their closed systems so they can make more money in advertising.

  21. There should be an easily accessible feed, public or authenticated, for anything that happens on the web. It's really important. I am very upset about this and feel like yelling at someone about it.

  22. Amen Marshall! This is the best way I know to scream at someone and have any
    sort of effect. I don't even care if it's RSS – make it Activity Streams if
    that fits the content model better, but there should be a link somewhere,
    that users can pull from that a typical content reader can consume.

  23. I basically agree with Marshall on this though I'm not particularly upset.

    I don't like Twitter very much and use it as a marketing medium. I'm more involved with Facebook but there's nothing I do on either platform that I'm interested in sharing elsewhere.

    As long as I can send stuff into their worlds, I'm fine, but it increases my distrust of both platforms.

    Which makes me wonder if Diaspora will include such feeds.

  24. All I know is, when it comes to following “long form communication” from sources worth following, and with the minimum amount of “noise,” I can follow EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM using my industrial strength RSS reader NetNewsWire.

  25. Won't work for me. Twitter and Facebook are like live radio and television. I can only know what's going on if I have it on and I am paying attention. I still rely on my RSS feeds to capture the news of the day and let me read at home own pace.

  26. Here's an idea – tangential I know, but playing on my mind a lot lately.

    Whenever you find yourself using the word “We” try substituting “They”.

    As in “It seems in 2011 and the era of Facebook and Twitter we've completely lost any care for open standards”

    We?. No, THEY. THEY don't care for open standards. Them. Not us, them. This (and everything else) is not about changing the world through the aggregation of individual consumer choices, it's about someone with power deciding to put their own interests before the common good.

    It's Them. Always Them – and it's time we started doing something to really really fuck Them, up.

  27. Back in January I asked Twitter Support about the missing RSS links and whether they would be supported. After receiving a few canned responses, I finally got a response from a human:

    My question: will feeds such as be functional in the future?

    Twitter response: Not that I know of. Stay tuned to @Twitter and our blog for updates on any changes we make in the future.

  28. I see this on your site:
    A browser setting is preventing you from logging in.

    It looks like you require third-party cookies in order to log in. I suggest you fix this before complaining about Facebook and Twitter.

  29. Amazing – especially that the Twitterverse has relatively silent about this til now.

    Closing down RSS does much more than hurt open standards, but negates the entire user-consuming information model that RSS enabled. Regardless of json and Oauth APIs, the user-control is slipping away.While much of what Facebook does is highly distasteful (imo), these shenanigans on Twitter's part are disappointing.

  30. If I'm looking to read, I'm not going to go to Twitter OR Facebook. These two sites need RSS like Mongolia needs nuclear submarines. News sites, blogs and other places with more than status updates and 140 characters of text at a time can still use RSS in a meaningful way. Twitter and Facebook do not need syndication. They are walled gardens with specific purposes, which do not include content aggregation.

  31. I was annoyed at the limited information available in the rss feeds twitter uses. They expose a much richer source of data via an open json feed, I use it to pump tweets into my “rss” reader formatted more twitter style then just a straight text blurb. I was thinking about turning the code into a service but work's been busy.

    I'm very much still in love with RSS but I do think that it's time for a evolution to a format more in line with the current an possibly future needs, perhaps even a suite of formats. Preferably designed to be consumed via xml and json and future format x. I've come across a number of things that are made to fit in RSS that might be handled better a different way. I don't know anything about twitters decisions but perhaps they don't use rss because it's just to constraining.

  32. Personally I don't care if there is a link on the page for RSS or anything else. I really want to see it more in the html as <
    “alternate” />. that way I can just point application x at and it can decide the appropriate format to consume or ask me if there are multiple appropriate options. Right now if you point a modern rss reader at a twitter users url it will start consuming their favorites and that's all that is there.

  33. RSS is an API, but a rather poor one: both for the publisher and the consumer. It is not surprising it is being replaced by richer proprietary APIs.

  34. Same here!! This is is really frustrating. I don't want to hack together feeds and learn APIs just to consume content… this is really lame. augh!


  35. This is a really useful article, and I'm very glad you've flagged this point.

    Beyond the technical aspects, it's not great to see what is essentially our data being
    essentially manipulated away from easy access by users.

    I agree completely with Marshall, Jesse and all the other people in this thread who would like to see a push to retain the original principles of the open web and allow people to store feeds in a number of alternative ways.

    This is an important conversation and it needs more oxygen to stop the exploitation of aggregated data that lies beyond the reach of the users these platforms are dependent on.

  36. I've been whining about the lack of RSS on Twitter for some time, privately, but thought I was alone in missing it and/or not knowing where it went. Thanks for the article, even if it is bringing bad news.

    Has Dave Winer chimed in on this — either the Twitter/Facebook specifics or RSS popularity in general?

  37. As a total newb to all of this… please don't yell at me. Never the less, I have spent the past few hours linking my WordPress site and Linked In page and I believe it is via RSS. Not everyone has lost that open source flavor.

  38. @0021d4944f02777b2bd4c59920f6ab5f How do you see Twitter as more of a marketing medium than Facebook? The 3 years I've been on Facebook, every page has an ad. In twitter, if someone starts spamming, I can easily unfollow them. And I see a sponsored tweet about 1x a month, and I'm on twitter daily for at least an hour.

  39. Twitter is under pressure from its largest private investors to monetize what they do. Their goal is to retain as much traffic and direct as many people to their site as possible; too much Twitter content can be accessed without actually visiting

  40. That's a really old business model, and I'm sorry to say it's a very lame one.

    Twitter and their friends at JP Morgan/Goldman Sachs et al would do well to read the book Business Model Generation, a book about user-centric (yes, user-centric) business models. I collaborated in it along with 400 others to demonstrate what a collaborative business model looks like. It's now on its 4th reprint and there's an app. More

  41. I found this article using Flipboard on iPad. If you do Not Know this app: it magically transforms Facebook, twitter and rss feeds into a stylish Magazine. it follows links and shows the content of the linked pages instead of showing the Links. This is much better than any rss News Reader I have Seen. I Wonder Why there is no app for Windows or Osx like that.

  42. Seeing as it works – and I'm getting both twitter and facebook from it — i see no evidence that it's a poor api. It's just an XML file that you update.

  43. i dont see the problem with killing RSS. Atom is MUCH better (well, ok, it's not hard to be better than RSS). The problem is that Atom is not there too.

  44. the lack of meaningful analytics around RSS is probably what's driving this. I know others have said this already, identity—'who' you are to the application—is vitally important on social services, but you can be completely anonymous and still derive great value from RSS

  45. That's a shame; quite simply, RSS feeds allow much more flexibility / control for ordinary but computer-savvy users than custom APIs.

  46. Though Facebook has made the feature less obvious, it is still possible to get an RSS feed of Facebook pages. All you have to do is add the proper Facebook Page ID to the end of this url: just fine in my Google Reader. Additionally, you can still use RSS to subscribe to your Facebook Notifications, all your friends shared links, or the links shared by a particular friend. Facebook hasn't killed RSS, people just don't know how find it.

  47. @marshallkirkpatrick:disqus try this bookmarklet. The RSS feeds are still there, and this bookmarklet builds the URL for you and adds an RSS link right back to Twitter.

  48. Interesting – thanks for sharing Brittany. Seeing as Facebook no longer
    shares those links on the site, I'm assuming we can't assume that will be
    around forever though.

  49. I tweeted it after finding the link in my RSS. I honestly don't know what I would do without my Google Reader. I have never found a replacement that was easy to glance, sort, follow and share information.

  50. I read almost every online thing using Google Reader. I strongly hope not many sites will stop allowing me to do this!
    Twitter and Facebook have become landing pages for me, because it would be simply far too spamming to bring them into my Google Reader, except for a few specific things I don't want to miss when not checking Facebook/Twitter for a few days.

    But pretty much every other website I visit and like or want to keep updated on, I subscribe to, using RSS/Atom. Do you have a website that does not allow me to use your content externally? Better be a super good website, because otherwise I will simply never come back again. I have 255 Google Reader subscriptions, no way I would ever check out those 255 website manually every day, week, or even month.

    And if the sites think they are missing my pageviews if I use Google Reader instead of using their site as a landing page: make your RSS/Atom posts informative enough to make me interested, but keep some content (longer stories, pictures) behind the link.

    I am glad this message was picked up by this article, I hope our voices will be heard :).

  51. Oh, well. I have opted out of Twitter and Facebook and still love RSS. Call me old fashioned. I really, really dislike the shallowness of the Social Network Web. The Internet I loved and still love is where people share content, information and opinions, not just cat videos and “likes”.

  52. …which is why email (RSS-powered) is a much better option all round; You know who they ware, there's better branding, tracking, personalization.

    I have two thoughts.

    One is that Twitter's actions reek security by obscurity. They haven't stopped RSS – my Twitter favorites feed, souped up by FeedBlitz at – is just fine. They've made it impossible for consumers to find. Note that the timing of the post at Twitter was linked to OAuth. you can't authenticate RSS via OAuth. IIRC update feeds used to require authentication. I wonder if they're now all public?

    There's a valid argument to be made taht consumers don't understand it, but a wholesale feature regression like this for those of us who do is … odd.

    The argument isn't about what we “read” on Twitter, it's about controlling access to information. You can get access to all sorts of things Twitter wants to control via the API for “free” via the appropriate RSS feed. The added irony of course is that Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO, was CEO of FeedBurner.

    Facebook is the AOL of our era. Closed, capricious and works simply because they're popular. It's a shame to see Twitter heading the same way.

  53. I noticed my Twitter RSS feed in Google Reader updating less and less regularly until it finally died on Saturday. I managed to re-subscribe today – but for how long?

    Meanwhile the ability to post from TwitterFeed using a site as intermediary (used this because Twitter will not accept content which originated on Twitter via TwitterFeed) has been blocked.

    Prior to that, TwapperKeeper withdrew the ability to create an archive even of your own tweets, stating Twitter's API rules. The research project of 2 million tweets about the Iran Election which I started in June 2009 is effectively dead.

    I can't find my own 134,000 tweets in Google or most other search results (see Twitter's FAQ about how they “can't index everything”).

    Is my frustration showing yet?

    By the way, Jesse, I am pretty sure you were one of the people that helped get me hooked on this social media lark 2 years ago 😀 Hugs!

  54. What reader do you use? I don't have any trouble adding Twitter feeds to Google Reader. Just paste in and it adds the feed. Or you can find the feed in Google Reader's search feature. This used to work for Facebook too, but now just Twitter.

  55. Except that they haven't killed the feeds. The links to them are gone but the feeds are alive and well. I have a site that aggregates restaurant news from Facebook and Twitter and it's still chugging along with new news, no problem.

    To get to the feed for a Facebook page go to

    change XXX to the id for the page and atom10 to rss if you prefer rss

    To get to the feed for a Twitter user go to

    replace the XXX with the Twitter user's id

    These are both still working right now.

  56. ” I mean sure, Twitter could just turn around and blacklist all of the apps that weren’t controlled by it, but in doing so would alienate users and developers who invested time and money into using and developing those services. “

    I am pretty sure Twitter already started this game when they started cutting access to large API consumers. Clients like TweetDeck were more or less told to pound sand when it all went down. A prime example of poor communication and restricted implementations. APIs are a great accessory to open protocols, but should not be the only access into the application.

    That last sentence I mentioned also makes me think of the Facebook API. How many times has that changed? How many times have users found themselves with depreciated methods or a new re-write of existing methods. It takes time to consume these APIs and build around them. Facebook has clearly demonstrated that you can't rely on an API to remain consistant as time changes. What's next, an API to tell us when the API will change or get updated?

  57. Yes that ..true.. but i still prefer to check the updates on my iGoogle page.. so that not to miss any single update from selected site.. which i want to enthusiastically prefer to follow.

    twitter burst becomes hard to handle.. to read & manage..even if you list the twitter account.

  58. For some people, like me, who do not have the time to 'man' the profiles I manage on Twitter, do you think it would be wise to hook up with web-based companies like to keep my Twitter accounts updated from RSS Feeds?

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