Dave Winer says Movable Type’s RSS is funky because an out-of-the-box MT blog comes with an RSS 1.0 and an RSS 2.0 feed. He says “UserLand clearly moved first in RSS in blogging tools, and it’s up to the people who are following, to do so with respect.” Here’s what I understand this to mean:

Respectfully, I disagree with both of these. (So feel free to correct me!)

Here’s the history:

After a while it became obvious that Netscape was no longer maintaining RSS, so:

(Thanks to bitsko’s RSS links for the links.)

So by Dave’s theory, we need to get permission from Netscape to innovate. Netscape’s not around to give permission, so I guess we’re all stuck with RSS 0.90 and 0.91.

But Dave’s theory is wrong too. If we followed it, it would severely hamper innovation. Imagine if Microsoft had moved first in RSS. (Oh wait, they did, only they called it CDF, not RSS.) Do we have to get permission from Microsoft to innovate? Do you really think Microsoft is going to let you innovate and take away their users? The effect would be to end innovation in RSS, which would be bad for everyone

Dave claims that the respecting him (and dampening innovation) is necessary for interop. This is also silly. When I wrote an RSS aggregator, way back in the day, it took me two lines of code to add support for the RDF-based version of RSS. (Slashdot used it, and I wanted to read Slashdot.) The other place Dave has used his respect argument (weblog APIs), he’s complained about some minor changes like changing names and the positions of arguments, things that also only take a couple lines of code to fix. Does Dave really think that saving a couple lines of code is more important than innovation?

Now I like Dave, and I don’t mean to flame him, but I just can’t sit by while he repeatedly asks Movable Type to stop innovating. However, I do agree that it would be good to have a common base of weblog standards which are supported by everyone and are easily extensible.

I’ve got a proposal (RSS 2.0 + HTTP POST) but more important than any single proposal is establishing an framework for mutual innovation and support. There’s a lot of improvements that can be made here, and we need a safe place to make them. Any suggestions?

Update: Sam Ruby is trying an experiment. He’s started a wiki for discussing what makes a well-formed log entry.

posted June 16, 2003 12:42 PM (Technology) #


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Aaron Swartz (me@aaronsw.com)