Tag: dave_winer

Microsoft – a wolf in wolf's clothing?

In June 2005 Microsoft announced their support for RSS. At the time it seemed like a good thing that Microsoft were embracing this standard, however, it was Microsoft after all. I should have known there was a more sinister motive behind it.

Today, according to an article in News.com, Microsoft has filed two patent applications covering RSS. The patents were filed in June 2005 but only came to light today.

The first application is for “finding and consuming Web subscriptions in a Web browser” while the second, according to the article is:

titled “content syndication platform,” [and] appears to describe a system that can break down feeds into a format that can be accessed and managed by many different types of applications and users.

Dave Winer is unsurprisingly, unimpressed and says:

Presumably they’re eventually going to charge us to use it. This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS.

Nick Bradbury, of NewsGator takes a more sanguine approach saying:

quite often companies file patents just to protect themselves from lawsuits. There are plenty of sleazebags who file patent applications on obvious ideas, and then wait for someone like Microsoft to infringe those patents. In other words, companies like Microsoft often file patents to prevent having to shell out millions of dollars to predatory lawyers who haven’t invented anything other than a legal pain in the ass.

So, what do you think, is Microsoft’s “evil” reputation is deserved after all? Or is this a sad reflection on the state of US patent law?

Microsoft becoming more open?

Microsoft made two major announcements overnight – the first is an announcement by Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie that Microsoft are extending RSS under a Creative Commons licence, and calling the extended RSS, Simple Sharing Extensions or SSE.

Russell Beattie likes it:

Adding in SSE namespace could then in theory allow *any* data contained in an item can be kept in sync. Pretty cool, hey? Sort of a universal data communication spec: Anything that any database can spit out, you can keep track of it, synchronize, and manage changes. Very, very cool.

As does Dave Winer (the inventer of (the current flavour of) RSS):

Microsoft’s new approach to synchronizing RSS and OPML, using methods pioneered in Ozzie’s earlier work, and keeping the “really simple” approach that’s worked so well with networked syndication and outlining, combines the best of our two schools of thought, and this creativity is available for everyone to use. It’s a proud moment for me, I hope for Ray and Jack and the rest of the people at Microsoft, and perhaps for the open development community on the Internet.

There’s a draft spec for SSE and a FAQ, if you’d like to know more.

Then Brian Jones, of the Microsoft Office team, made an announcement about the Office XML formats. Brian said:

We are going to bring the Microsoft Office Open XML formats to a standards body with the intention of eventually making the formats an ISO standard. This should really help everyone feel certain that these formats will always be available and fully accessible. We are going to work with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba to form a technical committee at ECMA International that will fully document all of our schemas so that anyone can understand how to develop on top of them

This is a huge step forward for Office formats – this will clear the way for the simple creation and sharing (mashing) of Office documents server side.

Even more significantly, Brian went on to say:

we are moving away from our royalty free license, and instead we are going to provide a very simple and general statement that we make an irrevocable commitment not to sue. I’m not a lawyer, but from what I can see, this “covenant not to sue” looks like it should clear the way for GPL development which was a concern for some folks.

This is tremendous news – I was moderating a talk recently at Tech Camp Ireland and I remember making a comment on the fact that Microsoft was opening up their Office format and making it XML by default. I was quickly slapped down from the audience (by Colm MacCarthaigh, if memory serves – apologies Colm if it wasn’t you) because I was told it was going to be proprietory and in any case it would all be tied up in licencing. I didn’t have any ammo with which to defend Microsoft at the time (and frankly, not generally being their greatest fan, I wasn’t too upset by the comment!) however, this announcement changes that.

Make it so Brian!

New Audible podcasting format – why bother?

I have recently started to take an interest podcasting again – I produced a few podcasts during the summer to dip my toes into podcasting but I had to stop when the soundcard on my PowerBook blew.

Recently, I have recorded a couple of my talks and podcast them with generous help from FrankP and NearFm and even more recently, Robert Scoble has agreed to let me record and podcast an interview I will do with him by phone tomorrow evening.

So I have been following the world of podcasting with increasing interest and was surprised to see a war breaking out there over the weekend!

The war is about what audio format to use in podcasts – traditionally the audio format has been mp3 files but a company called Audible has proposed a new .aa format. According to Mitch Ratcliffe (an Audible consultant), the main advantage of the .aa format seems to be that it is possible to audit how often they have been downloaded – this is, of course, important from a monetisation point of view! However, Mitch rather lost the head (and thereby the argument) when not everyone agreed with him.

As Michael Arrington put it:

Instead of embracing the bloggers that would normally talk about this, Mitch Ratcliffe (an Audible consultant) went on an unmitigated, unprovoked character assasination romp (with follow up attacks) against Dave Winer (â€?he’s willing to stealâ€?), Om Malik and others. This sure is an interesting way to engage the sneezers. As Om puts it, Mitch “goes after the dissenters with a verbal baseball batâ€?…. If you find yourself on the other side of a debate with Dave Winer, Om Malik, Doc Searles, Jeff Jarvis and others, maybe you should rethink your position. Because it is very likely you are wrong.

Doc Searls, Dave Winer, Michael Arrington and others have been mounting a robust defence of mp3’s.

In my own case, I don’t see myself shifting away from mp3s any time soon. As far as I can see from reading about Audible’s new format, you upload your podcasts to Audible’s servers, they convert to .aa and host the podcast there. It is a paid service.

My podcasting is pretty basic – I record the sound, convert to mp3, upload to archive.org (free hosting and bandwidth) and then link to the archive.org file from within my wordpress blog. WordPress recognises the .mp3 file as an audio file and creates the correct enclosures transparently for me so I don’t need to worry about the tech side of the podcasting. How would WordPress deal with .aa files? I have no idea. I suspect, it wouldn’t recognise them as audio and therefore podcast subscribers (listeners) wouldn’t know you had published new podcasts.

I think Audible’s strategy is wrong here – I think they would have been far better served coming up with a mechanism for measuring stats on mp3s rather than coming up with a new proprietary file format. What do you think?

Post updated after comments from Mitch and Pete informed me that .aa is not a new format – sorry ’bout that guys.

Scoble is disruptive!

Robert Scoble wrote a significant post in his blog yesterday calling on Microsoft and Google to Clone the Google API.

In a nutshell, Robert went to see a Microsoft customer company called Zvents (an online events listing company). When he asked them why they aren’t using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth on their site, (or Yahoo! Maps for that matter) instead of Google Maps, he discovered that:

1) The Yahoo and Virtual Earth licensing terms keep them from putting the map next to a Google advertising component.
2) There’s a perception that Google will treat companies who stick with all of its components better (maybe by giving a discount in the future, maybe by serving out better ads, maybe, by, alas, making both components better through using attention data!
3) They know that putting Google logos on their site is “cooler� and “more buzz generating� than putting Yahoo or Microsoft logos on their site (and they’d be right, heck, I work for Microsoft and I’m talking about their site).

Another example of the licensing restriction is the ip limit Yahoo! imposes on its Map service:

The Yahoo! Maps Embeddedable APIs (the Flash and AJAX APIs are limited to 50,000 queries per IP per day and to non-commercial use.

How narrow-minded is that? As Dave Winer says:

When an application starts getting serious traffic, pick up the phone and let’s figure out how to make some money. High traffic is good news, it’s something to welcome, to encourage, not something to fear!

As a result, Robert called on Microsoft and Yahoo! to clone the Google API – this would require a fundamental mind-shift for Microsoft and Yahoo! and that won’t be easy as evidenced by a comment on Scoble’s post by Jeffrey McManus (Director, Yahoo! Developer Network) where he said:

That’s not how business works. If you want this kind of thing to be free and unlimited, why don’t we start with the phone at your place? Can I declare your home telephone an ‘open standard’ and have all my friends come by and make calls at your expense? Can we order some pizzas on your credit card while we’re at it?

However, despite the initial negative comments from Yahoo!, Ethan Stock, CEO of Zvents is reporting on his blog that:

I just got off the phone with the Yahoo Maps team, and they said that tomorrow they will be removing the “non-commerical only” clause from their TOS, and that Zvents, as a commercial site, is “golden” to start using their APIs.

It is amazing how quickly one post from Scoble can start some disruption – now all we need to see is Microsoft, Scoble’s own employers, follow suit! If they want to stay in Map search, they’ll have to – don’t you just love competition?

More on Google Print

Google Print continues to excite comment. Damien Mulley came out against Google Print today quoting Dave Winer’s argument that it should be opt-in, not opt-out. I disagree. If Google had taken that approach to websites, they would never have become the useful resource they are now. This also misses the point that for the majority of out-of-print books, no-one is sure who owns the copyright, so who would opt the book in?

Google themselves wrote an article about Google Print today demonstrating just useful a site Google Print will be for the preservation of public domain books. More than that, Google Print will revolutionise historical research as researchers will now be able to search books, long since out of print, held in libraries on other continents.

Google are not a charity, they will obviously profit from doing this, but so will the rest of us.

Here’s an example date limited search: Heliocentric to give you an idea of the kinds of texts currently available – many hundreds of thousands more are to be added.

RSS usability problems re-discovered!

Robert Scoble has written a post bemoaning the lack of standards in using RSS feeds and the consequent confusion which this causes :

Some sites use RSS icons. Most that I visit use the orange XML icon. But other sites don’t have any icon and instead use words like “subscribe� or “feed� or “web feed.�

There’s a great discussion in the comments of Robert’s post on this issue – with some making the point that auto-discovery in IE7 will solve the problem and others countering that if you want to add the feed to an online reader like Google Reader or Netvibes, then autodiscovery won’t resolve that problem.

We had a very fruitful discussion on that topic here a few weeks back, after Dave Winer suggested that we use a Subscribe button.

What we came up with was a combination of an orange Subscribe button and a Help button – thanks to FrankP‘s generosity these buttons and the Help text are free to copy and use on other sites.

Robert – you obviously didn’t either 1) read the discussion or 2) read the discussion and forgot about it – I’m hurt 😉

Blog for sale – apply within!

I see on Dave Winer’s blog that he has confirmed the rumour that he sold Weblogs.com to Versign – he neglected to say how much for! The rumour mill is putting a figure of ~$5m on it.

Couple that with the news that AOL are buying Weblobsinc.com for somewhere between $25-$40m, and the news of Nick Denton of Gawker Media’s deal with VNU and I’m starting to think, hey maybe there’s money in them thar blogs after all!

It feels like early 2000 all over again, or on the other hand, as BL says

for a couple million, I’d sell this blog. Serious inquiries only.