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In which the syndication shitfest continues.

Scripting News: 6/4/2004

If Atom turns them down, as it appears they will, the W3C can start with RSS, which has a much larger installed base, is better-known and has a five-year head-start. It's the front-runner by a wide margin.

Yeah, Dean was the front-runner too at one point. There's a big danger with this "stick with the main purveyor of syndication goodness since 1999" stuff: the web is littered with the husks of the next big thing that failed to adapt and thus died. You can make the case that Atom only even exists because RSS was declared "frozen," at least for you, that is, and thus the only way to get further features into syndication was to create a new format. This new "clarification" is even weirder - if there'd been the willingness to listen to developers and do this a few years ago, and do it right, with attention paid to extensibility, backwards compatibility and none of this "tee-hee, guess AGAIN!" childishness about "funkiness," we'd all probably be raving about how cool RSS 2.5 is and how it's poised to take over the universe. Instead, we're only really getting the "clarification" because RSS crapped the bed when Reuters tried to use it to display characters generally thought of as markup, despite not using them as such. Whoops. Unfortunately, comparable glitches will bite RSS in the butt more often as companies start using it more, at which point arguments for "simplicity" like "You can author the feed in Notepad!" will garner the eminently reasonable response "Why would you want to do that?"

Sidenote to advocates: Generally, it is not a good idea to use the doctor joke punch-line "Don't do that" when a user says, "It breaks when I do this." Especially when your purported reason for dumbing down the format is for the users' sake in the first place. Whenever you ask that question, you've failed somewhere.


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» My Agenda: Really Simple from Workbench
Now that I've accomplished something tangible as a member of the RSS Advisory Board -- when the history books are written, let this serve as notice that Rogers Cadenhead authored the RSS 2.0 example file -- I think it's time to reveal my hidden agenda. [Read More]


I don't see where any adaptive pressure is being applied to RSS 2.0. It's a well-established format that thousands of people have managed to implement, either in spite of or because of its loose specification.

There ought to be strong resistance to change -- the core elements provide a standard for interoperability that's working. Namespaces provide the opportunity for extending the format into new areas.

Anyone who cares about coolness, precise content models, lovingly worded specifications, and the next big thing has a clear alternative: Atom.

2 points:

1. 'Ought to be strong resistance to change" - why? Other file formats and protocols have managed to progress without breaking all previous versions - why must RSS be an exception?

2. You don't really expect me to believe that the clarification isn't the result of the Sam Ruby detente post and Reuter's "silent data loss?" This was something that was already in the pipe?

Also, I find it interesting that you call precision in language and specification a bad thing. Sort of unusual in technology.

I think both sides have their problems, but this FUD in the form of "stop it, you'll ruin the Internet" is a lotta hokum. compete and let the best format for the widest possible range of needs win.

You're inferring a lot of stuff here.

There ought to be strong resistance to change because thousands of hours have been spent by programmers implementing RSS 2.0 and preceding versions, and we should think carefully before doing anything that might undo their work -- or requiring more.

I never said the proposed clarification was already in the works. Aggregator developers asked for it after the Reuters discussion, and I'm glad they did.

None of my comments should have been taken as FUD to insult Atom. I've read the specs and will be implementing the syndication format in Radio UserLand. I might even mess around with the API.

But just as there are some benefits to a precisely worded spec that requires explicit content types, there have been benefits to the looser approach of RSS 2.0.

I don't have a stake in RSS 2.0 beating Atom. My interest is helping RSS work well, serving the needs of its users, and growing the commercial market for the format -- Google for the term "RSS" and look at all the text ads.

Pardon me whilst I shudder at the phrase "growing the commercial market." Ah well. Such is the engine that drives... something something...

When you kids pause to take a breath, you might notice that the title of this post is followed by it's being exemplified in the post.

If you don't understand what Rogers' comments relate to, then mebbe you don't have much understanding.

Shudder away, then take a pause, a deep breath..

..then mebbe trying listening to those who actually know what they're talking about.

Aggregator developers are getting what they ask for. This is a good thing. I want them working stuff other than heuristics, like letting me sync up NNW, RSS Bandit, and Bloglines ;)

Rogers Cadenhead writes: "It's a well-established format that thousands of people have managed to implement"

Is this really true? Are there literally thousands of people that have created unique implementations of RSS agregators or suppliers from the ground up? There are certainly thousands of users who create or consume RSS feeds, but Rogers's statement seems extreme.

Sam, two zide this protocol, some imp one zid, some do otter zide.

Sam and Jinny,

Yes, this is literally true. (Rogers was being rather understated, because it's MANY thousands, from what I can gather.) Many of those who've implemented RSS2 have also implemented Atom. Almost without exception, those who've implemented Atom, other than Google, had already implemented RSS (either 1 or 2). (6A apparently CAN do RSS2, but you hafta go thru hoops, from what I've "heard".)

These are the facts of the matter, despite what many will say.

"Are there literally thousands of people that have created unique implementations of RSS agregators or suppliers from the ground up?"

No. My brain suffered silent data loss -- I think I was trying to refer to users (thousands) rather than implementers (maybe more than a hundred, by my unscientific, number-out-of-my-ass estimate).

Rogers, I think your unscientific estimate is WAY low.

EACH newspaper that had feeds had one or more people implementing it. The National Weather Service. Local TV news has it, I think. EACH biz that has RSS had somebody implementing it.

People tend to think there's just blogs using RSS2, and it just ain't so! That has miserably skewed the analysis of RSS2, entirely, and still does so...

Even just looking at blogs, anybody that put the RSS2-XML-logo HAS BEEN AN IMPLEMENTOR of RSS2. Granted it would take little for them to implement something else, thaz still a lotta people who've implemented RSS2, right?

I guess the corn-fusion surrounds adding the word "unique" into the phrase, although it has no significant bearing on this discussion.

Somebody that cloned somebody else's implementation, who now maintains that implementation, HAS a "unique" implementation.

I think Rogers and Sam are trying to distinguish between users (people who simply generate RSS) and implementers (e.g. people who write RSS parsers).