XML Syndication Supporters Mulling W3C Move

The Web standards body renews debate over the best place for Atom backers to form an XML content syndication standard to rival RSS.

The effort among Atom supporters to create a standard XML syndication format took a new turn this week as the Webs leading standards body suggested a new route.

The World Wide Web Consortium invited the Atom community to form a working group under its auspices, rather than within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Atom proponents since have been pursuing the formation of a working group in the IETF, a first step toward creating a formal standard.

Atom is an alternative syndication format to RSS (Really Simple Syndication), and the rise of dueling formats has created disagreement, and at times acrimony, among their backers. In March, the major proponent of RSS and its co-author, Dave Winer, suggested the merging of Atom and RSS into a common format in a process managing through a major standards body.

Popular with blogs, RSS and Atom news feeds increasingly are gaining more mainstream adoption. The feeds deliver XML content that can be read in news readers available as standalone applications and as plug-ins to e-mail clients. Yahoo Inc. earlier this year provided the ability to search and read syndication feeds to its portal, and earlier this week Opera Software ASA included an RSS reader in its newest Web browser.

The W3Cs Atom suggestion came in a public e-mail on Wednesday from Eric Miller, W3C Semantic Web Activity Lead, sent to the IETF and an Atom mailing list. Miller could not be reached for comment on Friday.

"The W3C agrees that Atom is an important developing application," Miller wrote in the e-mail. "We feel that its specific relevance to the Web, however, indicates that it may find more success in a standards setting organization with work in similar areas…We suggest that the Atom community propose to do this work in the W3C."

Following the W3C proposal, the IETFs Internet Engineering Steering Committee on Thursday delayed voting on the Atom working group proposal that was before it, said Tim Bray, a contributor to Atom who is director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc.

The W3Cs move also has ignited a renewed debate on the Atom mailing list and on Weblogs about the advantages and disadvantages of moving a standard through the dueling standards bodies. Bray said that he is among those in the Atom community that would support working through either group.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read an interview with Tim Bray.

The W3C holds advantages for being focused specifically on Web technologies and for following a stringent process for weeding out intellectual property issues, Bray said. But, on the flip side, the Atom community includes many startup companies and bloggers who are not members of the W3C, he added.

Major Atom backer Sam Ruby, an IBM engineer who helped pursue the IETF process, already posted on his blog Intertwingly a draft of a proposal for a W3C working group for Atom.

Rather than slowing the process, though, Bray said the turn of events demonstrates the widening momentum behind creating a standard around Atom.

"Atom always been a community led and grassroots thing," Bray said. "If a large portion of the community stands up and says lets go to the W3C, not I, Sam or anyone else is too worried about it."

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