The great syndication wars

If you’ve been reading anyone on the “A-list” of bloggers in the past few weeks then surely you’ve heard the slightest rumblings about Echo, Pie, Atom , RSS, Dave Winer, etc. Most people who speak out against Echo Atom are worried that Echo Atom is simply RSS++. However, this is not the case. Echo Atom hopefully will become a unified protocol for:

  1. Syndicating a weblog
  2. Posting to a weblog
  3. Archiving a weblog

Currently, most blogging tools: MovableType, Blogger, Radio all use a file format named RSS to provide a no-frills syndication feed. These feeds are used for a number of purposes. They can be used to display news on another site. For example I could have a run-down of the news at MacSlash or Slashdot on my technology related site. The collection of many sources of news in one location is typically referred to as “Aggregation.” Syndicating news for use on other sites was just the begginning, however.

It quickly became apparent that a file format would have to be used to standardize everything. Most people gravitated towards RDF and eventually RSS which is pretty much the de facto file format for expressing a site’s content.

Well the problem with RSS is that is was originally designed for use on news sites. Think slashdot, CNN, Kuro5hin, etc. Sites that post news stories consiting of a headline and some text. As RSS evolved they added more support for different meta data here and there.

With the rapid growth of weblogging in the past 3 years, RSS has struggled to keep up. People were able to add more metadata to RSS feeds by using what are called namespaces. I touched on these in my X/HTML post a while back, but basically this allowed them to add more data like the date a post was published, what kind of post it was, etc.

Eventually native support was added but this wasn’t before everyone’s RSS feed was a gobbledygook mess of tags and namespaces. This got some people thinking that they should design a new specification built specifically for the needs and purposes of Weblogging.

Now consider this problem when it comes to all other API’s involved in the blogging process. People are using XML-RPC along with a myriad of blogging API’s to get the job done. Sure, there is some semblance of coherance around the blogger API, but when someone requires a new feature they tack on another capability and effectively fork the API.

This one’s for you Jon Udell is a very well-thoughtout (way more than mine) piece that goes in depth into each of the three functions that echo should serve.

In any case this leads to the Pie, Echo, (not)Echo file Atom format (the name is in flux). This also leads to a lot of ego bruising. The man who claims to have “created” RSS who actually has only “pioneered the use of” RSS seems to think that the creation of echo is a slap in the face of everything he’s done. People in this camp are failing to see beyond the possibility of what echo can do. They don’t seem to grasp what echo has the possibility to become.

As stated by Neil over at Neil’s World

I just hope we don’t have a Ogg Vorbis/MP3 case, where Ogg Vorbis, the better, open format, still could not take the crown of MP3, which isn’t so advanced and is controlled by patents. Okay, RSS isn’t patented, but a google search for Winer Number will give you an idea of what the fuss is about.

In any case, I’ve got an RSS and an Atom feed going as of today although I’m unaware of any aggregators that currently support echo yet.

Here are some more good links on the subject:

echo aggregators

Benjamin Trott explains why we need echo