Standards, Standards, Standards

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-03-16 Print this article Print

How will the work you continue to do with XML standards fit into your new responsibilities?

Obviously I have a lot of experience in the standards trenches and how those processes work—what works and doesnt work and so on. I totally am not a full-time standards geek, but obviously Im willing to pitch in and help, working with the standards processes when something needs help in that space.

Whats your take on Dave Winers [co-author of the RSS format] offer to merge the RSS and Atom standards efforts?

For more on Winers efforts, read "RSS Backer Seeks Merged Syndication Format."

I understand that [the Atom group] is planning to set up an IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] working group, which strikes me as a profoundly good idea. IETF, W3C [World Wide Web Consortium], OASIS [Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards], I dont care, but I do think that syndication technology does need to move forward by way of some more formal process. So I am 100 percent in favor of this notion of going to the IETF.

To the extent that Winer is open to that, thats a good thing for RSS continued strength?

Totally. Now, my understanding is, based on the published RSS specifications, that it is frozen and cant be changed. Im not sure exactly how to get around that. But its pretty clear that RSS is destined to become a vehicle for a large and interesting new class of applications. One way or another, theres going to have to be evolution. I havent worked out what needs to be done, but Im pretty darn sure that someones going to have to put some time into that.

Speaking of this new class of applications, many people have been interested in the idea of routing around the dead end of e-mail.

I think e-mail can be saved. That one actually turns my crank a little less than others, but there is a certain class of applications that is not well-served by e-mail that is in fact well-served by RSS.

Such as?

Some of those things that fall into the publishing basket. I find, both for dealing with bloggers who publish irregularly and with the New York Times and the BBC, that RSS is the appropriate way to deal with that. I also think that RSS is going to have a huge application in simple things like watching my bank account and credit card statements—things that are updated irregularly but you want to know when they are, but are not person-to-person individual messages. The spectrum where RSS is a winner is bigger than people suspect at the moment.

Event notification would be a larger bin that it would be put into, right?


Whats your take on social software? Mine is that that its at an early phase of aggregating RSS, instant messaging, presence, location and so on.

I just totally dont get it. Im on LinkedIn and Orkut—never actually used either—watched one entrepreneur somewhere use LinkedIn to get through to me. Maybe Im not the right demographic, but I just dont see the value proposition.

But as a real-time architecture, as people move from e-mail along a continuum across instant messaging, videoconferencing, blogging, real-time publishing …

There I do agree. I wrote on ongoing a few months ago about the spectrum of communication. Youve got your phone, instant messenger, e-mail, RSS, straight Web publishing—I still have lots of stacks of paper in my life—video phone, as you pointed out. And for ad hoc communication the cost of all of these means that the communication is now more or less equal—and more or less zero per unit. As a culture, we are still in the very early days of figuring out what the right modes of communication are to fit into the various kinds of communication that we do. Were making this up as we go along at this point, and its a fascinating space to be in.

Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging Center at for more on RSS, IM, and other collaboration technologies.

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Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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