RSS Backer Seeks Merged Syndication Format

Dave Winer proposes an effort to combine dueling XML syndication standards, RSS and Atom.

The major backer of the RSS format offered an olive branch on Tuesday to the proponents of a competing standard for XML content syndication known as Atom.

Dave Winer, the co-author of the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) format, suggested in a Weblog posting that supporters of both formats work to merge RSS and Atom in an effort managed through a Web standards body such as the Internet Engineering Task Force. The rise of dueling formats has led to disagreement, and at times heated debate, among their backers.

"Can we put aside our differences now, and come up with a format that honors the work thats been done in the past and today and makes it possible for things to be better in the future, without the wasted energy that comes from disagreement and disrespect?" Winer asked in his posting.

Both RSS and Atom provide a similar format for syndicating Web content in XML feeds to other sites and aggregation software called readers. While the formats grew in popularity with the rise of Web logging in recent years, they also have gained converts among major Web publishers. Most recently, Yahoo Inc. in January began adding features for searching and aggregating the XML feeds, and a Sun Microsystems Inc. executive this week told about plans to adopt RSS.

Winer wrote that his move comes from a position of strength for RSS as more publishers and Web sites embrace it. But it also is in response to Google Inc.s decision in January to support Atom rather than RSS in its recently acquired Blogger Web logging software. Blogger moved to Atom for all new blogging users, though a Google spokesperson reached on Tuesday said that earlier Blogger users could still use RSS.

In an interview with, Winer said he wants the acrimony to end but also wants Google "to support RSS so we can all move forward." He criticized Google for undermining RSS while not publicly discussing the reason behind its move.

"Theres been a lot of stagnation in the blogging world, and a lot of it is because of the haze around the format," said Winer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "I want the confusion erased."

The Google spokesperson said the company is reviewing Winers proposal and that the company makes all technical product decisions "with the best interest of the user in mind."

Sam Ruby, an IBM software engineer backing Atom and who is seeking the formation of an IETF working group for Atom, could not be reached for comment. Butin a reply to Winers post he wrote that "an IETF working group would provide the backdrop, framework, and context" for considering Winers proposal for a common standard.

Among Winers suggestions were that the common format could be called RSS/Atom, differ as little as possible from RSS 2.0 and incorporate specifications being proposed in Atom.

"The idea of taking it to a standards process came from the Atom community," said Anil Dash, an Atom supporter and vice president of business development at blogging software maker Six Apart Ltd. "I think its great that (Winer) acknowledged that thats important."

But Dash questioned whether the two formats could technologically be combined. Atom, for example, has focused not only on syndication, like RSS, but also on publishing, he said. The two also have followed different development philosophies that Dash said would have to be reconciled.

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