The Aging Developer

The Aging Developer

for growing old in the software development community
Richard Klein
May 17, 2021

RSS is Dead, Long Live RSS

Many have written RSS or Atom off as a dead technology. However, it is alive and kicking. We explore why and how I added RSS support to this site.
David Clode
Image by David Clode on Unsplash
4 min read
718 words

What is RSS?

RSS, RDF Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Syndication, etc... is a computer readable file format that websites publish to notify systems that there has been an update to the site. A link element is placed in the head of the site to allow the auto-discovery of these files. The "feeds" could then be used for various purposes one of which is that they were often aggregated in a news aggregator/reader.

RSS was at it's height in popularity during the early Web 2.0 days prior to walled gardens such as Facebook taking over. During this time the Chrome & Firefox browsers built in support for these feeds. Google, Digg, and Mac had very popular feed readers. It was all the rage.

The Death spiral

With the rise of non-rss based feeds in Facebook and Twitter, as well as the increase of advertisements on sites, companies no longer wanted you to experience their content outside of their site. Usage of these tools declined. This produced what looked like a death spiral for the format. Firefox dropped its RSS button in 2011, Apple dropped RSS out of OS X Mountain Lion, and Google pulled its Reader in 2013.

The RSS Advisory Board latest news is from 2014.

Continued use

People are still using RSS, and publishing of the format has actually seen an upward trend in the last couple of years. Some people have become increasingly disenfranchised by the way social platforms use their algorithms to decide which news should show up in your feed. These people are turning back to RSS and feed readers as a way to control their own content consumption.

I have personally never stopped using an news reader. I use Feedly for the local news as well as to stay up to date on specific categories of content that I'm interested in.

Because of this, I thought it was important to include feed support on this site.

Adding support

There are several plugins to add feed support to gatsby based sites. I tried to use one of these, but there were a few drawbacks. I use MDX which is markdown with JSX and not all the plugins support it. Several of them also require using graphql in the gatsby-config file to customize what is shown in the feed. That in and of itself isn't too bad, but I'm trying to keep code out of configuration files. So instead of using one of the pre-built plugins, I rolled my own support.

The first thing I did was add the feed library as a dependency. It does all the heavy lifting for creating RSS 2.0, JSON Feed 1.0, and Atom 1.0 formats.

npm install --save feed

Code in the gatsby-node.js file is run as part of the process of building the site. At the end of the production build process the onPostBuild method is called. This is the callback I used to create the feed files. You can see the full implementation here.

The posts are sorted in the graphql by date then title.

sort: { order: DESC, fields: [frontmatter___date, frontmatter___title] }

The feed library does most of the heavy lifting here. I just pass the properties the mdx nodes in the graph into it.{node}) => {
const {title, slug, description, date} = node.frontmatter;
const author =;
const image = node.frontmatter.image.childImageSharp.fixed;
const asDate = moment(date).toDate();
return feed.addItem({
title: title,
id: slug,
link: `${metadata.siteUrl}/article/${slug}`,
description: description,
published: asDate,
published: asDate,
content: node.html,
author: {
link: `${metadata.siteUrl}/author/${}`,
image: {
url: `${metadata.siteUrl}${image.src}`,

I created a FeedLinks component that is used for the auto-discovery links that go in the head of the site.

const FeedLinks = ({siteName, siteUrl}) => {
return (
{{postFix, type, path}) => {
return (
title={`${siteName} ${postFix}`}
key={path} />

To ease discovery I also placed an RSS icon in the bottom bar on the site which links to the rss feed file.

<Grid item sm={12} md={4}>
<IconButton component={ExternalLink}
title={`${title} RSS`}
<RssFeed color="secondary" />

So now you can use your favorite news aggregator/reader to catch up on agingdeveloper whenever I have new content.

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