In case you missed it, Microsoft made three RSS related announcements at Gnomedex last week. They announced that:
- they are building support for RSS into their next operating system (code named longhorn) scheduled for release at the end of 2006 (I hope that sucking sound wasn’t the sound of you holding your breath!)
- the next version of Internet Explorer (IE7) scheduled for release later this year will have built-in support for RSS and
- they announced an extension of RSS to allow RSS handle lists of information – they will release this extension under a Creative Commons license – sonething for which they have received a lot of praise
Lets look a little more closely at these three announcements and their likely significance.
The fact that Microsoft are building RSS support into their operating system is big news no matter what your opinions of Microsoft. This really takes RSS mainstream. Phil Ringnalda, in a comment on Brent Simmonsâ€™ post explained it well when he said:
In my impression of their vision of the future, I’m going to produce a single combined feed which includes my public bookmarks (which they’ll route to IE’s version of Firefox Live Bookmarks), my weblog posts (which will be pulled out of the common data store by one or more traditional feed readers), my photos (that will be fed to a photo gallery), all my other binary output (music and video to players, applications to an inbox, application updates to their respective applications), my calendar data (to a calendar app or two), my geopresence data (to a mapping app), whatever else I can find to output to wherever…
And it will all just happen ‘cos RSS is built into the plumbing of Longhorn – this can only be a good thing.
The second announcement, that IE7 will support RSS is also great news in that it will bring RSS more into the mainstream by virtue of Internet Explorer’s dominance in the browser market. True Firefox, Safari and Opera have had this functionality for quite some time now, and in this Microsoft is simply playing catch-up but that doesn’t take from the fact that many more users will be exposed to RSS as a result of this announcement.
The final announcement, that Microsoft are extending RSS using what they call the Simple List Extension and will license the SLE using a Creative Commons license has generated a lot of controversy.
Many people are saying that microsoft’s support of RSS in this way sounds the death knell for Atom (Atom is another XML-based protocol for syndication) – however as Bill de hÃ“ra points out:
The list notation can go into any of the many RSS formats as far as I can tell. It’s not being baked into RSS2.0, which is to say it’s not an extension of RSS2.0 at all, it’s just an XML module. At this point I’m tempted to debunk a particular confusion that reigns in the XML syndication world – the difference between modularity and extensibility, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say the Simple List Extension, is an XML vocabulary, and not an extension of RSS. Indeed you can start using it right now without any RSS/Atom in sight. Let me repeat – you do not need to use RSS2.0 or Atom to use the Microsoft Simple List Extensions.
Others are saying that this is, yet again, Microsoft trying to take over a standard – however, the fact that it is licensed under the Creative Commons seems to nail that argument pretty quickly.
So, what are we to think of Microsoft’s seeming act of generosity – licensing the SLE under a Creative Commons license – well BusinessWeek said:
What’s more, Microsoft is going after the RSS market in a very un-Microsoft-like way -â€“ it’s making its RSS technology available for free using the so-called Creative Commons license.
I take a contrary view – remember RSS was already licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, which says:
If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one
So Microsoft had no choice but to license the extensions under a Creative Commons license!
Having said that, Microsoft’s decision on RSS is an important one. It heralds in a new internet paradigm – initially we had Browse, then it was Browse, Search and now it is Browse, Search and Subscribe. As eWeek said:
Microsoft has decided that subscribing, via RSS, will become the third leg of its information-access triangle. The other two legs are browsing and searching. With the addition of RSS, once a user has found information they are interested in, they will be able to stay updated easily as the information changes.
I have created a podcast of this post which is available for download here.