Last night’s conversations were incredibly interesting, the next day I’d like nothing better than to continue them. One thing I wish I had said to Om, so we could have developed the idea (or perhaps he might have disagreed) is my belief that RSS did not come from the tech industry as so many assume — it came from the publishing industry. Why? Well, the ideas in RSS are hardly technologically revolutionary. As many have pointed out, ad nauseum, CDF had some of them, and as you can see in this post from Mary Hodder, there’s no doubt something like it would have come along eventually even if we hadn’t promoted it so aggressively in the late 90s and early 00s.
The event that made the difference, that in hindsight was the tipping point for RSS, was the adoption of the format by the New York Times in 2002. The publishing industry, unlike the tech industry, didn’t feel threatened, apparently, by a thriving standard, so after the Times went first, they all just followed, compatibly, without reinventing, without gratuitous incompatiblity, without excuses, they just did it.
Now, also in hindsight, it’s pretty clear the reason it was RSS 2.0, both in the Times and in the blogging world is because I wanted it to be RSS 2.0. The Times delegated the decision to me. So I did the same thing with the Times’s content flow that I was doing with Radio’s and Manila’s and my own on Scripting News. All those things, flowing the same way, was enough to drive adoption of a de facto standard. The others in the blogging industry, which is definitely part of the tech industry, did what the tech industry always does, they tried to lock their users in through tiny little niggling incompatibilities — until Apple came along, and brazenly did what no one else dared to do. They built on the generous openness of the publishing industry, and never said thanks, and then lied about their own openness and reserved for themselves the right to decide who can read their content. And so far, they’re geting away with it.
There’s nothing in Apple’s past to suggest that it could possibly be different. They’ve never willingly let others compete with them. Bill Gates has never forgotten that they sued him over the trashcan. Only occasionally, when Jobs wasn’t there, did they flirt with the idea that competiton might be permitted.
But we don’t need the tech industry, and it’s about time their attitude reflected that. They didn’t bring us the web, that came from a researcher in academia. And they didn’t bring us RSS, that came from the publishing industry.