Lightweight Version of RSS Released

Supporters of rival news feed specification Atom are asking why another version of RSS was even needed.

Shouldering past the community fear and loathing over Microsofts supposed plans to co-opt and rename its first implementation of the Web publishing technology, RSS editor Jonathan Avidan released a third, fully XML version of RSS for review and comment on Thursday.

The RSS (Really Simply Syndication) 3 specification aims to fix perceived problems of inadequate documentation and "lack of concern towards modern necessities" in RSS 2.0.

RSS 3 contains two specs, only one of which, the Lite version, was released for public consumption.

RSS Lite is a stripped-down version of the Full version thats designed for use by content aggregators that reside on a bigger program or site, such as Mozilla Firefox.

A high-end aggregator such as Mozilla Thunderbird, which handles RSS feeds, news and e-mail reading for the same source, would use the RSS 3 Full spec when it becomes available.

Proponents of rival news feed spec Atom were up in arms over the introduction of RSS 3, saying that theres simply no need to fix RSS when Atom has already arrived to fill in where the older, more established RSS left off.

"Wow, you have put a lot of effort into this, but have you talked with anyone in the community?" said one Slashdot comment poster, Jeff_Schiller. "Why not participate in Atom discussions, why go off and implement yet another flavor of RSS?"

Atom is an alternative format to RSS for publishing an XML-based syndication feed. Weblogs and news Web sites commonly use these feeds to send instantaneous headlines and summaries of news postings and stories.

/zimages/3/28571.gifThe IETF has signed off on Atom 1.0 as a standard. Click here to read more.

As it is, there are an arguable number of RSS standards in use—some count up to nine—depending on how users perceive interoperability between the existing standards. The editors of the latest RSS 3 spec list three classes of RSS standards: 0.9x, 1.0 and 2.0, the latter of which is the base for RSS 3.

The editors of RSS 3 justify the production of a new spec by pointing to a lack of documentation in current RSS standards.

"The 0.9x class of standards is outdated and under-documented," according to the RSS 3 site. "The 2.0 class is highly under-documented, filled with unnecessary features though lacking others which could be useful. The RSS 3 standard is supposed to extensively document the standard, to expand where expansion is needed and to remove unnecessary features."

Avidan, who maintains the RSS 3 site and edits the RSS 3 spec, wrote in his blog that another version of RSS 3 exists. The 3-year-old namesake is currently unfinished and apparently has no takers, he said, since its "an entirely new format" based on text rather than on XML.

The RSS 3 Lite specification is available here.

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