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Facebook RSS reader said to uncloak June 20

Secret event scooped by Scottish developer?

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Facebook has sent out invitations for a press event on June 20, and it's widely rumored to be the announcement of a new RSS reader aimed at scooping up disaffected Google Reader users.

In March, Google announced it was going to shut down the Reader system on July 1, saying that the number of users had declined over the years and that the Chocolate Factory wanted to focus on new creations.

That news didn't go down well with users, sparking the now-traditional Downfall parody, a 150,000+ signature petition, and a mass migration to other services.

Fading news aggregation site Digg has already announced it will build its own RSS system to support those Google users who don't fancy any of the other myriad of readers out there (and try and get Digg some traction again with internet users). Now Facebook has set out a mysterious invite (by snail mail no less – how retro) for the event.

The dead-tree invitation features a printed coffee cup stain ring and the words "A small team has been working on a big idea. Join us for coffee and learn about a new product." No other details have been released, but a Scottish developer may have spotted an important clue as to the purpose of the mysterious announcement.

Tom Waddington, who also maintains the home arts and crafts website Cut Out + Keep with his fiancé Cat Morley, blogged on Thursday that he'd spotted something unusual in Facebook's code base.

"A new entry appeared – now users have RSS feeds, each RSS feed has multiple entries, and a list of subscribers," he wrote.

"What's surprising is that the code mentions RSS specifically and distinctly from existing interest lists and friend lists. Also, note that this is unconnected to Facebook outputting RSS feeds, which they've done for a while."

Possible Facebook RSS code

A Facebook RSS footprint?

Waddington said that he'd tried to access the RSS feeds by means of the API, but it was locked down and only available to whitelisted applications at the present time.

If Facebook does have a new RSS reader, the move would fit in with the company's strategy of trying to become the go-to place for internet users looking to know what is going on in the world, a strategy Mark Zuckerberg pointed to at the March launch of Facebook's revamped news feed.

"We want more than a single feed of content," the behoodied one said at the time. "We want to give everyone in the world the best newspaper we can. It should have high-quality public content and socially relevant content, and to drill into any topic." ®

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