Tools will start to support necho as well as RSS. The formats will coexist, just as RSS 0.91 and RDF and RSS 2.0 coexist today. Furthermore, this coexistence will be transparent, just like today. Over time, necho will, hopefully, become the standard. In the meantime, there will not be a major catastrophe of incompatibility... Eventually, some of the other formats might become less used, and will be phased out (this is something that is already happening, for example, with the transition from RSS 0.91 to RSS 2.0). And because, currently, RSS is being almost exclusively used for updates and regenerated constantly at each endpoint, there will be little if any switchover cost, again, as an example of this I put forward the transition from RSS 0.91 to RSS 2.0 that happened last year.

Obviously, it's on us, the developer community, to add necho support without disruption, and it's not a problem. After all, we are already doing it today, and moving most (hopefully all) tools into necho will eventually reduce work for developers in the future, allowing us to, finally, concentrate on improving the tools rather than on how to let them connect to each other.

When I read Dave's post that developers were trying to "rip up the pavement, break everything and start over", I wondered what he was talking about. (Strangely, I can't find the original posting on Dave's blog. Maybe the statement was revised in the face of a later endorsement of the project?) The reason I was wondering is because nothing broke on my desktop. Every RSS feed to which I subscribed was still feeding me RSS, and my home-brew aggregator continued crunching and delivering my fix.

In fact, my aggregator's RSS consumption is based on Mark Pilgrim's Ultra-liberal RSS parser. And, it looks like Mark's been one of the developers involved in the (not)Echo project. Mark didn't break anything for me, and couldn't if he wanted to. On the contrary, he continues to offer his code, and even updated it not more than a month ago to address link-vs-guid concerns in a useful way. Hell, even though Mark demonstrated his break with RSS tinkering rather concretely by implementing a very literal interpretation of the spec, I can still download his working RSS parser code.

I'm a user and a developer all at once: I produce RSS, I consume RSS, I develop with RSS, and yet I'm watching (not)Echo with great interest and welcome it when it's ready. I fully expect that, in my tinkering, it'll take me less than a lazy evening's work to put together a template to publish a (not)Echo feed from my blog, and to add (not)Echo support to my aggregator. Hell, I might even get another parser from Mr. Pilgrim to drop into my project. But, as long as others are still producing and expecting RSS, I'll still accept and offer RSS. No breakage here. In fact, if I get off my lazy butt, I'll unfunkify my own feed and upgrade it to RSS 2.0 while I'm at it. This isn't really heavyweight stuff here.

Then, I read things like Jon Udell's Conversation with Mr. Safe and other worries that the whole technology of web content syndication and management will be avoided by big money, or even more horribly, co-opted by big money in the confusion. Has the BBC or the New York Times expressed any change of heart with their decision to offer their content in a syndication format? Has the basic tech stopped working? There are no pieces of sky on my balcony, though I fully admit that I might be too naive to see them.

See, to me, RSS ain't the thing. Content syndication and aggregation are the thing, and that's going strong. Are the people with big money interested in this geeky thing called RSS, or are they interested in syndication and aggregation? You know, getting their content out there and read? Do they know that this (not)Echo effort hasn't actually made RSS-supporting software stop working, nor will it ever? Just because a bunch of bloggers and tinkerers got together and decided to start making an alternate format and API doesn't mean that the existing, mature technology suddenly goes sproing.

In fact, unless or until this upstart (not)Echo project builds something amazing in terms of in-spec capabilities and vendor support, the currently working RSS-based tech is a safe bet. And, in fact, I'd be willing to bet that RSS will still be a force to consider in years to come, even if (not)Echo introduces some irresistable pull. Companies like Blogger and ?SixApart would reveal themselves to be run by morons if they screwed users by dumping RSS overnight. (And that's ignoring the fact that someone would come along and whip something up to fix their idiocy somehow.)

And, I'm sure Microsoft or some well-heeled vendor could try stepping in with a format of their own and try to steamroll it through with their own blogging tools and aggregation services, but you know, they're not omnipotent. The Internet didn't go away when MSN was introduced, and the web full of RSS feeds won't go away even if they introduce MSNBlogs or some such. It'd take a gigantic fight, lots of very shiny bits, or many bribes.

I mean, that's what it takes to get my cats to do anything. shortname=syndications_formats

Archived Comments

  • The only thing that wound me up about Mark P's little jest of removing link, and the only thing that winds me up about Dave W's problems with explaining what he thinks link should be used for, is that they're both messing with the old lizardbrain core in one way or another. As long as we all go on supporting CITLD (Channel, Item,, item.title, item.description), RSS will continue to grow, no matter what we call it and no matter what we add to it. Don't break the core.
  • Some 'pavement' comments:
  • I'm working on updating my ultra-liberal parser to handle (not-)Echo as well.
  • I braindumped some possible bad scenarios at the bottom of: