Applause, Applause

Beeing a geek and blogger I am following the discussions around the evolving syndication standards quite closely without getting myself too much into debate. The RSS 1.0 vs. 2.0 war was already dirty enough.

For my own part, I can say I am clear supporter of the original vision of the Semantic Web and therefore RSS 1.0 was my choice as a syndication format. I see the added complexity of RDF-based feeds in comparison to the not well-defined RSS 2.0 approach that‘s based on simple XML but I think it is worth the price.

But I must admit that we are still too far away from the Semantic Web. The application of today is called Weblogs and while I was a bit sceptical regarding the upcoming Atom format I see the point more clearly now: Atom is about making Weblogs doing the right thing: expressive syndication, well-defined remote posting, retrieving, editing of weblog entries and maybe the format will prove to be extensible and flexible enough to incorporate Wikis as well (which I consider to be a bug win).

But nothing has made me more aware of the important role Atom might play in recent mumblings of Brent Simmons (author of NetNewsWire) and Nick Bradbury (author of FeedDemon). They both stress the point that upcoming versions of their programs will NOT accept any Atom feed that does not comply to the basic rules of XML: well-formedness.

Applause, applause: these guys are so right! The time has come to finally make use of the power of XML. Well-formedness (and it‘s big brother validation) are going to make the web a better place and while weblogs have pushed HTML and CSS standards big time already, this move will create even more awareness for XML‘s true power: being able to ensure structural data consistency. If only the web browser guys would follow the same path with XHTML 1.1 and 2.0.

If Atom will be pushed along like that it will have much more impact on me and the blogosphere than any revision of RSS could ever have. That doesn‘t mean I have lost faith in RDF, but RSS is just a small part of it‘s world and it‘s good there has been some time of basic thinking and testing by the weblog world. RDF will play it‘s role in the near future in areas where it excels: combining semantic data of various sources and create complex views of that data jungle. Atom will focus on weblogs (and similar systems) and das ist auch gut so.

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