RSS blogrolls are a federated social network

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Style Pass
2024-05-14 13:30:10

RSS and other web feeds are a great way to keep track of articles published by your favorite blogs. But feed discovery remains challenging. Some recent work in this space opens up new opportunities.

Since the earliest blogs were published, blogrolls helped readers discover new blogs. Each blogger could promote the blogs they follow by listing them somewhere on their site (their blogroll). Readers could discover these suggestions as they browsed, helping them explore the blogosphere. A blogroll could be as simple as a list of hyperlinks, although recent tooling has become more advanced.

With the rise of PageRank-based search engines (I.E. Google), content discovery suddenly became easy. This sucked the wind out of the sails of manually curated blogrolls and directories: readers no longer needed them. Twenty years later, the major search engines are losing the battle to filter out link farms and AI-generated slop. Overwhelming SEO pressure has mutated websites so now you can't get a recipe for brownies without a long back story. They've turned towards value extraction, filling search results with so many ads that they sometimes push actual results below the fold. (Although honestly, you're using an ad-blocker, right?) It's a troubling development that makes us yearn for the early web.

Top search results are often just the same large websites: Wikipedia, IMDB, StackOverflow, etc. It's a sea of sameness that makes the Internet feel boring and beige. Personal blogs, small community websites, and other digital gardens still exist, and it's easier than ever to create your own, but Google won't find them for you. Instead we're seeing modern search engines like Marginalia emerge to elevate the small-web.

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