Will RSS fork?
17:08, 28 Jun 2000 UTC | Eric van der Vlist

Following a thread on the syndication mailing list, Rael Dornfest has announced an "RSS Modularization Spec(ish) page" defining how RSS could be extended using namespace based modules--provoking a threat to fork RSS by Dave Winer.

Dornfest defines the requirements of the proposed specification as:

  • Extensibility without need of iterative modifications to an RSS core specification.
  • Backward compatibility with existing RSS (currently 0.91). If the namespace route is chosen, this is easily accomplished with the the simple requirement that core RSS parsers, modules, and libraries ignore what they weren't built to understand -- namely the namespace bits and pieces. Anything which majorly alters the core RSS specification would probably bring about the need for additional tools, possibly XSLT.
  • A core set of modules providing the functionality required most of the time by folks.
  • The care taken to guarantee backward compatibility has not been sufficient to avoid cold appreciation from Dave Winer who would prefer to shift the focus to content rather than format:

    I find the activity towards "modularization" to be dry and uninteresting. I'd like to see some new information float through RSS-space, asap. I believe that imperfect element names are fine, I am interested in getting new information to flow from writers to readers.

    And, after the following explanation from Ian Davis:

    Modularisation is a simple way to keep backwards compatibility and yet enable people with different needs for RSS to create extensions without going through an extensive revision process for the whole RSS spec.

    Winer proposed to either integrate the new functionalities into RSS or to fork and build a new standard:

    So Ian and Rael and others, here's what I propose to do.

    I'll watch what you come up with in the way of modules and if there are interesting ideas in there, I'll propose that we add them directly to RSS, without adding the complexity of namespaces. I'm guessing that this mostly meets your objective, is a fair compromise, if not, then we can fork.

    You can go the namespaces route, make RSS into a fully buzzword compliant spec, and if you get support from content developers, then we'll probably all read that format as well as earlier formats and we'll have happiness. Or maybe we'll find that the ideas in the modules are what are really important, and not the modularization itself, and then we can have a simple spec, and leave the buzzword people to their gyrations, and keep RSS realllly simple.

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