Are RSS feeds replacing the virtual surfboard?

For the few days I was on holiday, instead of using Google Reader, I keyed in various sites' URLs and browsed their news sections like good old 1999.

Software

Are you letting Web surfing become a thing of the past?

I've talked about my appreciation of RSS readers before. But only recently have I seen a certain negative impact as a result of using them so exclusively. While they're amazingly efficient at bringing the content of hundreds of sites to our fingertips, they can also keep us from perusing the Web sites themselves.

Last week I happened to visit a site that I normally just read the RSS feeds from. The site in question, like lots of sites, puts full content in its feeds, meaning you can read all of its updates within an RSS reader without visiting the site itself. I noticed how nice the site looked and how enjoyable it was to browse. It struck me that I hadn't actually visited the site for ages, purely because I only ever read its content through Google Reader.

More extensive musing on this subject made me realise that the joy of Web browsing -- classic 'surfing' -- is being replaced, for some people, by syndication tools (though such surfing still takes place on casual sites and destinations you're first discovering). So for the few days I was on holiday, instead of using Google Reader, I keyed in various sites' URLs and browsed their news sections like good old 1999.

Obviously, the Net is a much, much bigger place now, and RSS readers allow us to get stories as soon as they're published, from multiple sites, meaning we don't miss a single beat. They're great, and I love them. But I also loved those few days when I wasn't at the office, where I stepped into Internet Explorer 5's shoes and cruised my favourite sites not knowing exactly what was around the corner.

Am I alone in this feeling?

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