Weblogs: Semantic Web

RSS' troubled past, present and future

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Dave Winer is running amok again, railing at OReilly because they didn't acknowledge him as the co-creator of RSS. I presume he's referring to Ben Hammersley's excellent book "Content Syndication with RSS" that I'm currently reading at the moment.

Now Ben's work does cover Dave Winer's contribution to RSS - his collaboration with Netscape for RSS 0.91, his authoring of RSS 0.92, his divergence with RSS1.0 and thereafter the release of RSS2.0 that wasn't backwards compatible with RSS1.0. There's no mistaking Winer's contribution to RSS - however, the more time I spend in the blogging world, the more convinced I am that a lot of the divisiveness of RSS is because of Winer himself.

Two formulated positions appear in Winer's claimed invention of content syndication formats, probably well summed up and referenced by Danny Ayers: More Invention and Rogers Cadenhead: Can of Worms: Who invented RSS?.

There is certainly an understanding that Winer was involved in the RSS 0.91 spec - but the evidence suggests that there was initially no direct involvement between Winer and Netscape in the authoring of the RSS 0.90, the first specification. Only after the publication of RSS 0.90 did UserLand and Winer approach Netscape in an effort to "work together".

Rogers Cadenheads entry does conclude that Dave Winer co-authored, with his Netscape counterparts, the 0.91 RSS specification, but without evidence that he co-authored the 0.90 RSS specification, Winer is up a creek with a leaky canoe.

The argument that Dave Winer invented RSS (as a syndication format) because of the creation of format in 1997 sowed the initial seeds of content syndication, then we need look no further than the acknowledged incentive of Microsoft's channel definition format which Winer adopted in April 1997 for the purposes of content syndication.

The fractured relationships and emotional handcuffs attached to RSS are damaging its acceptance to the web community. For my part, I see RDF as the basis of the Semantic Web, so counter-productive specifications like RSS 2.0 that scrap the RDF fundamentals re-introduced in RSS 1.0 do more to divide RSS into an unworkable specification.

Update 4th May 2003: Looks like the O'Reilly book in question is Shelley Powers' Practical RDF - coincidentally a title I've already pre-ordered from Amazon. Well I suppose that makes my position biased, but conversely, are there any RSS books written not published by O'Reilly (apart from "RSS: Victim of Slander - A Multi-dimensional Study")?

Update 9 June 2003: Considering Dave Winer is continually dropping references that he co-designed RSS, using the argument he was involved after Netscape 0.90 and that his contributions resulted in RSS 0.91. If he wants to argue it that way, then surely the list of contributors to the RSS 1.0 specification are also co-designers?

Further reading:

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