Microsoft Embraces RSS

Technology will be built into 'Longhorn'.

Saying RSS will be key to the way people use the Internet in the future, Microsoft Corp. plans to integrate the syndication technology directly into "Longhorn," the next version of Windows.

"We are betting big on RSS and creating support for it throughout Longhorn. We believe that RSS is so powerful that it needs to be in places other than RSS readers and browsers," said Gary Schare, Microsofts director of strategic product management for Windows.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., will focus on making it easy for users to find, view and subscribe to RSS feeds. Schare said the company plans to help developers put RSS in their applications; enable new classes of RSS applications; and create a set of RSS extensions, known as the Simple List Extensions, that can be used to enable Web sites to publish feeds that represent ordered lists of items.

"Lists are very difficult to do with RSS today, as it is currently not really designed to handle that scenario. But, through these extensions, we are going to enable that to work really well," Schare said.

The extensions will be built into Longhorn and made freely available through the Creative Commons license.

Asked if this precludes free and open-source projects licensed under the GNU GPL (General Public License) from using them, as is the case with the upcoming Open Office XML Formats in Office 12, Schare said he did not believe that is the case as the RSS extensions are based on an open specification where tags are specified.

While Microsoft has done a lot with RSS on the publishing side, this is the first major step on the client software side. Users will be able to see an RSS feed on a page, view it in a browser and subscribe to it as "easily as it is now to put a Web site in their Favorites list," Schare said.

As users visit Web pages, an icon in the tool bar will light up to indicate the presence of an RSS feed, Schare said, and users can remove that icon from the tool bar if they choose.

Microsoft will publish specifications of what it will support, with primary support being for RSS 2.0 and Atom in some form.

The work is making RSS easier for application developers, Schare said, adding that Microsoft is removing the need for each application to understand RSS, how to subscribe to a feed, or download and manage it. That will be done by the operating system once a user subscribes so developers "can focus their energies on creating new experiences," Schare said.

An example of such a new experience could be a conference attendee subscribing to an RSS feed for an event; the Windows platform in Longhorn would fetch related feeds. The feeds will be real enclosures—not MP3 files, as is the case today—like a calendar file in an open format such iCal.

"A calendar application can then be written that talks to the APIs in Windows and requests all the new calendar items," Schare said. "The calendar application can then do really fun things in the way it presents the options to you and lets you decide which ones you want to add to your calendar and which ones you want to discard. Then, when things like speaker and room changes happen, they get updated through RSS and fed down in the platform and then automatically changed in the calendar."

On the security front, all new RSS functionality goes through the rigorous Security Development Lifecycle process at Microsoft, part of the Trustworthy Computing initiative, with the aim of eliminating as many security threats as possible, Schare said, adding that this is why building it in at the platform level makes sense.

Longhorn gets simple with RSS

  • RSS to be integrated directly at the platform level
  • New Simple List Exten- sions, created to handle lists, will be built into Longhorn
  • The extensions will be made available through the Creative Commons license
  • Primary support will be for RSS 2.0, with some form of Atom also supported