imageJennifer Van Grove over at Mashable writes today about the demise of utility app RSSFWD:

RSSFWD, an end-user RSS to email service, announced via Twitter today that they will be shutting down the service at the end of the month. With less than 100 followers, this doesn’t seem like the best method to announce one’s demise, especially when the service in question is one that some people find useful.

According to the tweet, a blog post is pending (even though the current post reads that the service is ready to roll), but making this type of announcement via Twitter just seems crass.

Actually, the site’s been less than worthless for some time now.

I was playing around when I got my phone a couple months ago trying to hack MetroPCS so I could get Twitter via SMS, and my first stop was to try to use RSSFWD:

Apparently, though, I’m the only one who remembers it exists (including its developers) since the site works great but it’s no longer able to send out emails at all.

As I said back then, this was a site category that could use some serious work and development. There are very few sites that perform this function, or at least perform it reliably (and in a world where every phone service provider has an email to SMS gateway, it’s a service that when marketed right could be in great demand).

As Steve Rubel notes, though, this isn’t an issue just isolated to RSS-to-email gateways (even if Steven Hodson noted it first).

You see this with a lot of Twitter applications.  I haven’t had a Qwitter notice in a long time, and I know for a fact that I’ve irked at least one or two of my followers on Twitter, and that’s just one that springs to mind immediately. I’m sure if you pick your favorite list post maker, and find a list of Twitter apps – you’ll find at least a 30% dead rate.

Back in the podcast world, we call that podfading, and it’s just a given that it’s going to happen to a certain percentage of all podcasters (just as there’s a relatively constant percentage number of failures amongst new businesses). If you compound that with the fact that, like most podcasts, there’s little to no economic incentives involved with running the app, you’re only increasing the chance that it’ll fail.

Are We Headed for a Massacre?
image I hate to repeat myself, but I’m going to: Steve Rubel’s the guy who brought you the “skunk drunk / kool-aid” meme last year. You don’t get to predict the death of Web 2.0 throughout most of the boom (while it’s still growing, even) all the way through the bust cycle, and when one barely functional app folds, declare your premonitions infallible.

How does the saying go?  A stopped watch is right twice a day?

We’re not headed for a massacre, but when you have a perfect storm of barely functional technology along with slipshod marketing, you’re going to see some apps fold, yeah. That’s exactly what you had with RSSFWD.

It also helps when an application serves a capitalist purpose (something Steve decried in the original “skunk drunk” post, ironically).

Unfortunately, you’re not seeing a lot of that, because most of these services are free.  That’s great, and it’s been the spirit of Web 2.0 for some time now, but it’s time for change. I, for one, would have paid for RSSFWD, or a service like it, that would successfully get around the issue of Twitter not working on MetroPCS.  $5 a year would have more than paid for the volume of bandwidth I’d use and leave a bit left over for the developers.

App developers that are smart will find clever ways to market their product, reframe their services, and then charge for the value-add.

Are we due for a massacre?  I sort of doubt it … or at least I like to think that most developers are smarter than Rubel gives them credit for.