Bubble wrap up

I’m not going to be spending a lot of time on the the topic of Microsoft’s embrace of RSS, primarily because the implementation of much of this stretches too far out into the future. When the tech hits my hands, then I’ll kick the tires, and look under the hood.

I will say that I found the Microsoft examples of their RSS integration to be less than compelling: updates of calendars in Outlook and subscribing to Amazon wishlists. The former is just ActiveX subscriptions all over again; the latter seems more geared to bringing in the Amazon name than demonstrating anything particularly useful.

I can’t help thinking that, just like years ago when Microsoft realized it was late to the browser games, it’s now discovered it’s late to the syndication party. To make up for it, the company hopes to do something bigger and better: to redefine what a ‘feed’ really means, and in the process remind people not to forget who the Big Dog is. Yet I just don’t find the effort to be exciting.

I remember when Microsoft entered the browser wars, it did so with such a bang. It brought a lot of innovation to the concept of ‘web browser’: integration with the desktop, DHTML, object models, and even early work with CSS. It was the first browser to drop support for BLINK.

Along the way, though, it also wrecked havoc with its proprietary extensions and implementations–damage we’re still feeling today. Perhaps that’s why much of the positive feedback about the announcement yesterday is more along the lines of, “Wow, Microsoft hasn’t tried to take ownership of RSS. I’m impressed. And it’s honoring the CC license, too. Golly.”

In other words, Microsoft isn’t causing harm with its effort. Whew! Let’s wipe our brows, that was a close one! I ’spect, though, that some of the stronger proponents of this move will be changing their mind on the goodness of this effort in about 2-4 months time. Tops. (Maybe less.)

In the meantime, Atom is moving forward to its first release, and other XML vocabularies are appearing in new or increased uses. Even us bastard XMLers, the RDF clan, are actually doing something useful with our unreadable and indecipherable specification. We just don’t get stage space at Gnomedex.

While Microsoft has stood still, the world has moved on: Gimp, OpenOffice, Atom, LID, podcasting, Mac OS X built on BSD, Ubuntu Linux, NeoOffice, RDF, Firefox, MySQL, PHP, REST, WordPress, even Ajax–light, open, tasty little nibbles in a world suffering a surfeit of heavy metal infrastructures. We’ve moved on.

Microsoft’s RSS team has worked hard, and I respect their efforts. I enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm in the Channel 9 video, and I hope the company gives them space to do something exciting. The photo integration demonstration was one of the more interesting ones, but even that, as they say themselves, is dependent on bandwidth and copyright issues. Also the fact that most folks use PhotoShop or Gimp, though I imagine a plugin could be created to work with these non-Microsoft tools. Come to think of it — you could traverse feeds to pages and scrape the images to pop up into PS or Gimp now, wouldn’t have to wait for them to appear in enclosures. Or Microsoft, for that matter.

Eighteen months to see most of this rolled out is a long, long time. Especially when Microsoft is already eighteen months too late.

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