Gnomedex: The Microsoft RSS announcement

Dean Hachamovitch, general manager, Longhorn Browsing and RSS Technologies, and Amar Gandhi, group program manager, are on stage.

“Syndication is powerful. Syndication is amazing.” We tried a long time ago and made mistakes (with Active Desktop and Channels in IE 4 and 5). We started to get it one person at a time. Scoble is a platform; it’s not clear what he is evangelizing, but he is a platform.

2005: Feeds are everywhere. They are all over the Internet, for us. It started with browse…. it was powerful, but limited by having to remember addresses. Search solved some of that, but it’s not done making things better. Now, there is subscribe—it’s not just a feature, it’s a new approach.

With Longhorn, we are betting big on RSS for developers and users. This means:

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RSS-enable everything

Provide a platform for RSS development within Windows

I’m sitting here with Raines Cohen, with whom I worked at MacWEEK back in the early 90s, and it strikes us that Microsoft is actually announcing Mac System 7, which touted “Publish & Subscribe.” Microsoft’s just 14 years too late.

We are the first audience to see IE 7.0. People shout. Opens browser, opens the Gnomedex site. The browser recognizes there is a feed and alerts the user subscription is available. Very Safari in Mac OS X 10.4. Remember, this will be out from Microsoft in…. 18 months or so.

Shows MSN Search on “Gnomedex,” which returns an RSS feed for the search results. No more searching again and again, because you can subscribe to the results. (Hmm, Microsoft is aiming at Technorati, PubSub, etc.)

“This is a set of APIs that stores all new subscriptions, and any application … on Windows can have access to it.” The RSS feeds become part of the user’s store and are available to be processed by any app. Nicely done, this is essential to the evolution of RSS, as I’ve written before.

Marc Canter asks what happens when there are multiple RSS feeds on the page. The answer is that there is a facility for viewing RSS resources and subscribing individually.

The enclosure tag is a tool for feeds of content, not just podcasts. The world is going to suck data and make new applications of it…. (my words, not the Microsoft guy’s).

IE can parse feeds to extract calendar information and hand them to Outlook, where they are stored in a folder associated with, in this case, Gnomedex. He talks about writing some code to do this, and someone asks “why not have the feed reader just handle the MIME type”? And Dean, getting testy about questions, sort of dismisses the question, making him seem like a kind of asshole Borg, rather than the friendly Borg he was playing before.

The example is a good one. “Every application understanding natively what a subscription means.”

They turn to processing photo feeds, extracting notes and superimposing the text on the pictures. Nice. Imagine, for example, a podcast with show notes displayed in the player. This kind of multi-data views of information, where we see and hear or see and read (or whatever combination of sensory experiences) can be expressed simultaneously.

Now, to lists. The elements of these data feeds can change. Microsoft has developed extensions to RSS to let publishers identify feeds as lists that are updated and the changes tracked. They show an Amazon.com feed of Wish List data. So, if you have a friend who has a wish list, you want to keep up on that. The extension allows management of position in the list and changes, including additions and deletions, with user notification of the changes.

Another aspect of the Amazon list is a filter that lets you view the list based on additional criteria, such as “just DVDs” or “just books.” This lets publishers create additional value in their feeds by facilitating personalized view of feed data.

The extensions specifications are available under a Creative Commons license. “You’re writing code for Windows, or Linux or Macintosh, go use these extensions.” Microsoft will make the code available in September; there’s a white paper available today at blogs.msdn.com/ie. Feedback to teamrss@microsoft.com.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.