Friday, August 26, 2005

Who Loves Ya, RSS? Or RSS vs Atom

Last week, I came across two postings about RSS and Atom that I find quite interesting. RSS-Specifications has a post that says RSS won the syndication formats war over Atom because Microsoft has adopted RSS wholesale in the IE 7.0 browser and in their upcoming Longhorn operating system. But RSS Weblog says that Micrsoft wants to use another name for RSS, possibly "web feeds". This is possibly a limiting name. The same post says that Atom 1.0 just became an IETF standard. (Note, Atom 1.0 does not, at the time of this writing, have an IETF number yet.) Neither, however, is a W3C standard. And as I mentioned in my last post, an RSS3.0 Lite spec has just been released.

My official feeling about all this is: uggghhh. While competition in the marketplace is the key to improvement of products, software and technology formats are funny things. For widespread acceptance of a technology, history has shown that people prefer a single format for data for each technology. Do you remember what happened with the "VHS vs BETA" videotape format war? Experts would have a us believe that VHS won despite that it was not the better format. Similarily, with RSS, some experts feel that RSS is lacking in some areas. If you were to check the names that are behind the Atom standard, they may mean nothing to you. However, at least one of them co-authored the XML specification, which is a W3C standard. My experience says that that alone means Atom is probably the more robust format for syndication. But while that may be so, RSS already has a much wider acceptance. What's more, RSS also already has a much wider implementation. And that's the bottom line for most Feed publishers.

Nevertheless, for those of you who are now confused as to how to build your feeds, I'd like to be a fencesitter here, but I won't be. Simply because of RSS's wider implementation, I'd say that if you are not already of a strong opinion, then choose RSS. If you have a talented tech team, do both. And if one web syndication format later keels over, remove the corresponding feed from your web site.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,


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