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Twitter takes a step closer to RSS

As recently as one year ago, I relied primarily on RSS feeds for news updates. On my personalized Google Reader account, I received round-the-clock headlines from about 60 of my favorite blogs, meticulously handpicked and categorized into bins like “breaking news” and “analysis.” I still occasionally check up on RSS, but lately I’ve found the links people post on Twitter to be more worthwhile, since they require less work and have special significance to at least one person I’ve decided to follow.

In a move that I believe shows Twitter keenly aware of its power as a news service, the company is hiring FeedBurner co-founder and CEO Dick Costolo as its Chief Operating Officer, according to TechCrunch. Started in 2004, FeedBurner became one of the most popular tools for publishing blogs and other content through RSS before being acquired by Google for $100 million in 2007. Costolo is entering familiar territory: he’s an early investor in Twitter, he’ll be joining many fellow ex-Googlers at the startup, and he’s already an avid user of the microblogging service (read his frequently hilarious tweets here: @dickc).

I’m excited by the possibility of Costolo helping Twitter become a better social news site. The “trending topics” feature added earlier this year was one great way for users to stay on top of chit-chat across the entire site, but how about a feature that highlights the words and phrases my network is tweeting about? And couldn’t Twitter take all those great links being posted to stories around the Web, and sort them for me based on my interests and what’s popular among my friends?

Sure, such features aren’t going to create any sudden stream of revenue — presumably, a priority for the new COO. But if Twitter can get part-time RSS readers like myself (and my colleague Steve Baker, who still uses Netvibes) to do most of our news-scouring on its site, I think it has a better shot at pitching us an ad or charging us a buck.

If you’re an RSS user, I’d like to hear what features would get you to drop the technology for Twitter.

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