Microsoft Meddles With RSS

A good idea from a bad source?

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is little bit like Text Messaging. There’s no fancy graphics involved, it’s simple and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Trust Microsoft to go sticking its beak in then.


Late last week new Microsoft CTO and former Lotus Notes guru Ray Ozzie (there’s a great 70s glam rock front man wasted in that name) announced that the company wants to create a new extension. The good part is that the idea seems rather sensible; the bad part is we’ve seen it do this before.

Being a positive soul we’ll deal with the pluses first. Called Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE) it is a proposed add-on to RSS which alters the ‘unidirectional’ publishing method of RSS (website synchronises with browser/app) and makes it ‘bi-directional’ (website/user synchronises across multiple applications or a network). To use the example Ozzie picks out: think of inputting a new calendar entry and having it automatically update not just across all your applications (no matter the developer), but also across a business network and all relevant employees’ software. Different security or authorisation levels can be set to each entry to discern who receives what.

Calendar lists are just the beginning too. Certain emails or contact lists can automatically be shared to create a constantly evolving ‘rolodex’ which could be sorted into Home, Work or Family categories and I’m sure you can think of many more. In essence, SSE could be incredibly useful.

Now, this being a Microsoft development, the down side actually stems from another apparent upside: the company proposes to make SSE open source. In theory this sounds great, but the Redmond based monolith is a tricky beast. It has pulled tricks like this before, trying to ‘improve’ other successful and widely used standards such as Sun Microsystems’ Java and the Kerberos security standard and – as we all know – nether had a happy ending.

Activists would argue ‘Why can’t Microsoft simply back this industry standard and watch it naturally evolve?’ I would say probably because Microsoft sees itself ”as” an industry standard, which is a hazardous litigious route it has walked before. So the optimist in me says ‘Good idea lads’, the pessimist ripostes ‘I wish someone else was doing it…’


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