Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
It was interesting to read Evan William’s carefully written essay about weblogging APIs this morning, and watch his writing as it slowly revolves around to the need for standards, particularly in the chaotic and competitive world of weblogging technology. As he, and others, are discovering, they have to be prepared to take the steps necessary to work effectively in an environment in which no one person has, or should have, control:
The only way there will be a universal blogging API is if everyone who needs to has input and sign-off on it, and it cannot be controlled by any one vendor.
I perhaps now understand the need for standards bodies more than I ever have before—even though the term gives me willies.
I have spent too much time lately on technology, poetry, and photography, and need to return to the roots of this weblog, which is writing. But at the same time, I want to applaud Ev for taking a step in the right direction — acknowledging that there is problem in weblogging and that problem is that there are too many specifications and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.
It started with RSS, it’s continued somewhat with Trackback, and now the lack of a standards body is impacting on weblogging APIs. For the non-technical, this may seem as if the issue doesn’t impact on you, but it does. When weblogging tools have to accomodate multiple APIs and multiple RSS specifications and so on, the tools get bloated, their performance suffers, and you, the weblogger, get hammered with demands that you support this RSS and that weblogging API by upgrading your installation and so on.
In addition, the energy that should be directed to new innovations or faster applications, or better security is being bled out to writing code that parses five different flavors of RSS, and three different flavors of weblogging APIs. This doesn’t even include recent discussions about what format to use for porting data from one weblogging tool to another, something that’s going to become more critical over time.
This is a no win situation. By what stick do you measure that continuing chaos is ‘good’ for us all?
Dave Winer wrote today today:
This morning I came up with a new app that that integrates weblogs like Scripting News with search engines like Google in a new way. It’s very exciting. I’m jumping up and down and giggling I like it so much. Now if I wanted to really be a bastard I’d hire one of your grad students to patent it, and make sure everyone who implemented it would have to pay me a royalty. But I’m a fool. I think people’s brains will explode when they get to use this. It’ll be an incredible research tool for busting patents, believe it or not. In that way it’s perfectly appropriate to give it to the world for free. Now can you come up with something Creative Commons-like so that when the poopy little wiener boys at the W3C claim I didn’t invent it (they think Microsoft or Guha invented everything) I can show them a record in some database that gives me appropriate credit for the invention. How about some middle ground for people who want credit for their work, but don’t care to erect a tollbooth?
Without knowing what Dave’s ‘new application’ is, we don’t know if he really did invent something that will withstand the patent process, but he has a right to patent any new technology he invents. However, he’ll also have to withstand the challenges to his claim that come with this process. Dave has a right to claim something as his own that he has invented, but he doesn’t have the right to claim something as his invention when there is prior art showing otherwise. He doesn’t have the right to rewrite history.
Issues of who invented what aside, the biggest problem with the current state of business in weblogging technology is that a few ‘giants’ in the weblogging industry, such as Userland, or Blogger, or Six Apart (Movable Type) can force decisions on what approaches are best, when the better quality effort may come from a much smaller company or even a single person. An independent standards body would allow all voices to be heard, and the best, not the biggest, would float to the top.
As I write this, I can already tell you, guarantee it even, who will now come out writing ‘in favor’ of Dave Winer and who will write ‘in favor’ of Ev (or against Dave), both sides not realizing that weblogging should be growing beyond dominance by any one person by now. We had our time in the sandbox and it’s time to grow up.
Unless that’s what people want — all of us in the sandbox, playing with our pails and our sand, and arguing about who has the bigger shovel.
(Thanks to Sam for the link to Ev’s post.)
The thread that led to Evan’s essay is here. It demonstrates why a standards body is needed, why there will never be one, and why I need to stop writing about weblogging technology in my weblog.