Just meditating about the new event which has just hit us recently, the announcement of Microsoft not only providing integrated support for RSS inside the long-awaited-surrounded-by-rumours Longhorn, but also creating a new feature for RSS2.0 - lists - and releasing it as an extension, and even more, under a Creative Commons License. (They announced it at gnomedex2005, see blogs for it on technorati, there are lots of posts!)
I have tried to remain objective and to avoid negative prejudices against Microsoft, but the thing is that their decision produces me a mix of scare and joy at the same time. As all of the people which Scobleizer compiled in this post. People is against and also in favour of Microsoft entering the wonderful RSS world.
For me, I don't really know what to say. I have tried to understand what they really want to do but searching here and there all I can get are discussions and rantings about Microsoft wanting to eat the whole RSS market, the bloggers, the independent RSS readers software and so on. Something like: If RSS was a piece of cake, Microsoft will eat it!
So, it's good to see Microsoft accepting RSS and not creating their subscription format for any type of content-provider. That's really cool, instead of developing a new format, they try to be standard, for once... or not? this is what worries me: is their proposed extension (the lists) going to break all the rss readers out there, or will it work seamlessly with them, not breaking anything and maintaining a normal behaviour?
In fact, the idea of extending RSS into a more generic/powerful specification which allows one to keep track of more things with more meaning, it's not so bad. As they say, all of us use lists in our daily tasks. Buuuut, which is the meaning of RSS? Really Simple Syndication. That makes me think that... shouldn't it be maintained like that...? simple? (and remind that cool sentence: Keep It Simple, Stupid!)
This can have some effect over the all the content providers and specifically over the websites. Now they need to provide really good content, because with this scenario what really means is it, not a fancy presentation. Also they will need to generate syntactically correct XML (which will derive into including syntactically correct (X)HTML, which is absolutely great) otherwise the parser will show a big ERROR.
And that relates to another thing that worries me: the kind of parser they are going to include inside Longhorn. Are they going to embed a parser which tolerates lots of errors thus making some rss feeds only viewable by longhorn based rss readers? This could lead us to a situation like IE only sites, we will have longhorn-only feeds (or IE only feeds, as they say RSS reading will be possible in the new Internet Explorer 7) because of people creating messy feeds which only test on Longhorn products. That's disgusting. One of the features I like more of feeds is that they are multiplatform, and I am not restricted to any specific platform to read them. I can use an online reader like bloglines, or offline ones like for example Sage for firefox, or even thunderbird (and I am not sure but I would say that Firefox also allows to read RSS as live bookmarks). As Nick Finck says: Is it the case that every time we take one little baby step forward (getting all browsers "somewhat" standard compliant) that we must take five leaps backwards (MS DOM, MS extentions to (x)HTML and CSS, and now extentions to RSS)? ...
And more worries: the license about this. They say they are going to release it under a Creative Commons license. I hope they maintain it like that. And I also hope that they don't go evil and try to get the patent for some hidden detail of the implementation in a way that for using their rss lists or something derived from it (for example, cross-listing two feeds) you have to pay. That would get a big disapproval from myself (and more people too, specially with all this horrible nightmare about software patents).
Finally what I don't like at all but seems to be the crude reality: microsoft tried it with Active Desktop and those stupid channels which weren't really useful at all. Now it has been waiting for years in the dark, until they have chosen their victim (rss), then they will take profit of all the efforts (standardization, diffusion of the format, testing, addictiveness) that people have put in it and will use it for their own profit, while atom semi-dies of starvation, while saying that they are bringing RSS to the masses. Oh!, many thanks for showing RSS to windows longhorn users!