Category: Web

Browse, Search, Subscribe – the new Internet paradigm

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 Simmons’ 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 hÓra 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 -– 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.

D-Link DSL 300 is Mac address specific!

I lost Internet connectivity over the weekend at home. My home Internet setup is quite basic – see the following diagram (courtesy of D-Link):
Home Internet setup diagram
I use my laptop almost exclusively and I have it connected to the Internet via wireless network served by my D-Link DI-624 wireless router.

On Sunday morning, my laptop didn’t register any wireless network. I thought my son had accidentally turned off the router so I went upstairs to check but no, the router was dead. Completely dead – no LED lights lighting, nothing.

No problem, I thought. I’ll bypass the router and plug my laptop directly in to the DSL modem (a D-Link DSL 300). When I did, though, I still couldn’t access the Internet!

I logged into the web interface of the modem and discovered that my ISP username and password settings appeared to be lost. Strange coincidence I thought, both devices having problems simultaneously, possible power surge of some kind? Anyway, I reconfigured the modem with the settings, downloaded my email and then connected the modem to my sons iMac so he could play.

Again though, there was no Internet access. I logged into the modem again and yet again the ISP settings were lost. Uh oh! I wondered if the modem had been damaged as well.

Then it hit me – the modem must be MAC address specific – and it was set for the MAC address of the wireless router – hence its apparent failure when the router failed. Knowing that, I left the one device connected to the modem until this morning when I had a chance to replace the wireless router.

Now that I have replaced the wireless router, all is back to normal once more (except my wallet which is a little lighter 🙁 )

The Semantic web and life sciences

I see where Tim Berners-Lee expects the next explosion in use of the Semantic web to be in the field of life sciences.

The Semantic Web “will give scientists and other users unexpected help and serendipitous added value from others’ data,” Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), said at the Fourth Annual Bio-IT World Conference and Expo in Boston

He went on to say

Life scientists in particular could find the Semantic Web a useful tool, and in so doing, “provide leadership to lots of other fields” in implementing this next-generation Web technology, Berners-Lee said. “At the moment, I see a huge amount of energy from people in life sciences, getting excited by the Semantic Web and what it can do to solve the big-idea problems.”

Dr. John Breslin, of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway has written and spoken extensively about the semantic web so I look forward to finding out from him first-hand just exactly what the semantic web is when he comes to the Blogging for Business event on the 9th of June.

If you find the concept of the semantic web hard to understand (I know I do), you are not alone – even Tim Berners-Lee admits that the concept is “quite difficult to explain.”