Social Media

Podcasting history

I can’t stand the Initial Development history section of the Podcasting entry at Wikipedia. It’s horribly written and full of accusations and people’s names inserted just to mark themselves into the story. I was only half joking about editing the section, but I’m not now. I have no part in podcasting so I have nothing to win or lose by what’s listed in the history of podcasting–well, other than it pains me to see the Wikipedia entry as it now stands.

Following is a history, rewritten from the existing entry and taking into account current discussions. I do have a Wikipedia account, and will edit it under my account name (Shelleyp). Let me know critical elements that are missing from this history. Questions about items are embedded and if anyone has the answers, let me know.

What makes podcasting unique from other digitalized audio technologies is the use of syndication feed enclosures to automatically download audio files for those subscribed to the particular feed. The concept of using syndication feeds for this purpose originated with a draft proposal submitted by Tristan Louis, in addition to conversations between Dave Winer, author of the Really Simply Syndication (RSS) format, Adam Curry, and others. To facilitate this functionality, Winer created a new version of RSS, RSS 0.92, adding a new element, enclosure. He demonstrated, publicly, how it would work by enclosing a Grateful Dead song, January 12th, 2001.

The use of the enclosure element to push audio files originally had slow acceptance among webloggers or tool developers. Winer incorporated RSS enclosures into the Userland weblogging product, Radio. Since Radio had a built-in aggregator, it provided end-to-end podcasting support, though the term most used at the time was audio-blog or audioblog.

In June of 2003, Stephen Downes demonstrated aggregation and syndication of audio files using RSS in his Ed Radio application. Ed Radio scanned RSS feeds for MP3 files, collected them into a single feed, and made the result available as SMIL or Webjay audio feeds. In September of that same year, Winer created an RSS-with-enclosures feed for his Harvard Berkman Center colleague Christopher Lydon. In his announcement of Lydon’s audio-enclosure feed, Winer challenged other aggregator developers to support this new form of content and provide enclosure support. Pete Prodoehl released a skin for the Amphetadesk aggregator that displayed enclosure links; not long after.. (Who was the first third party aggregators to provide RSS enclosure support in addition to Pete?)

A month later, at the first Bloggercon held at Harvard, Kevin Marks was invited to demonstrate a script to download RSS enclosures to iTunes and synchronize them onto an iPod. Following, on October 12, 2003, Curry offered his blog readers a RSStoiPod script that would do the same. Curry put his Applescript in open source and called it ipodder, at, and encouraged other developers to build on the idea.

Possibly the first use of the term “podcasting”, itself, was as a synonym for audioblogging or weblog-based amateur radio in an article by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian on February 12, 2004. In September of 2004, Dannie Gregoire also used the term to describe the automatic download and synchronization of audio content; he also registered several ‘podcast’ related domains. His and Hammersley’s use of ‘podcast’ was picked up by leading podcasting evangelists such as Winer and Curry and entered common usage.

I still have to add links, but the text is what I’m planning on adding. Note that this cuts out many of the uses and examples of podcasting, which should either be removed entirely from the Wikipedia item, or moved into the section on popularization, or even a new section on history of podcasting tools and technologies. These are, in my opinion, the key elements of the history of podcasting, without enthroning individuals, and without referencing every person who touched podcasting, or even thought about it from the years 2000 through 2004.

You also will also note that I removed the reference to enclosures being in the RDF version of RSS. This is the history of podcasting, and regardless of what other technologies existed at the time that could implement syndication based subscription and production of audio file enclosures, the popularization of the concept of podcasting began with RSS 0.92. This is a history of podcasting, not syndication and media or streaming and media.

What key critical elements am I missing? Who contributed a significant element to podcasting who should specifically be mentioned by name? What errors have I made?

I’m not worried about the grammar so much, because this can be edited after I add the material. But I don’t want to upload this to Wikipedia and have it form the basis of an edit war because so and so was included while so and so was not. I’d like dialog on this before I make the edit.

Note, when I do make this edit I am aware that yes it can be backed out. That’s the nature of Wikipedia, and especially with contentious subjects, ‘owning’ the history is almost as important as ‘owning’ the discovery. However, note to those of you who want to write yourself into this history: it is contrary to Wikipedia’s procedures for you to edit an entry to add or modify entries about yourself. If you feel an error has been made, or that you have been erroneously omitted, initiate a discussion item associated with the article rather than edit the article yourself.

Or, in other words, as my friend Bud the camel would say: Stop screwing with Wikipedia! You’re really pissing me off!


(What surprises me the most about this article is how many of the people referenced in this entry have a Wikipedia page about themselves.)

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