Scripting News Annex

Notes for groups interested in RSS

Last night I posted several notes in response to a post by Paul Montgomery. We’re at an interesting point in the life of RSS, where several small companies, Newsgator, SixApart, SocialText, Feedburner and Technorati may be trying to control the evolution of the format.

1. I think the Roadmap of the RSS 2.0 spec provides very clear instructions to anyone working in this area. I haven’t heard anything from this new group that says they aren’t respecting the Roadmap, so until I hear otherwise I’m going to assume that they are.

2. It’s possible that a new format, based on RSS 2.0 could be an improvement, but any person or group attempting to do that must not in any way claim the exclusive right to do so, nor should it in any way attempt to interfere with the stability of the RSS platform. No one has the right to do that. RSS 2.0 is what it is. You can extend it through namespaces, that certainly is one way forward. You can take the format and make a new format as an evolution, but you must not call that RSS. That set of constraints has served us well.

3. I initiated the transfer of the RSS 2.0 spec from UserLand to Harvard in 2003 because ownership of the spec by a commercial entity such as UserLand had become a political issue on the mail lists and weblogs. I wanted RSS to have a future unencumbered by these concerns.

It concerns me to see five companies, Newsgator, SixApart, SocialText, Feedburner and Technorati, give themselves special position among the many companies using RSS, especially since UserLand unilaterally gave up its special position with respect to RSS. It seems to me this is an issue that should be discussed publicly.

4. I would also like to know what interests the other members of this group have. Are they receiving money from the companies? Do they have any conflicts of interest? Do they assume a responsibility to disclose any conflicts of interest?