Monday, January 05, 2004

Blogger to have RSS soon, likely to be Atom

We've been criticizing Blogger for months over the lack of RSS feeds for Blogger users. RSS is a feature that came with Blogger Pro. When Blogger dropped the Pro version, that left only former Pro users with RSS capability. Any new users were stuck with a hybrid Blogger version with some Pro features, but lacking RSS.

The reason for not implementing RSS with the standard Blogger is starting to become apparent. It looks like Blogger is going to go with Atom as it's RSS resource. And the reason? Just look at the different RSS versions floating around to see why. At our alternate Blogger Blog site, we even give users a choice between RSS .92 (Userland), RSS 1.0 (RDF), and RSS 2.0 (Userland). That is the problem: RSS is getting squeezed by the sheer volume of information and none of the current standards are up to handling the traffic. Current RSS protocols are based on prior work. For a good discussion of the problem, go to the Teledyn blog:

Herein the black hole of RSS: If your feed works, if you are successful in attracting subscriptions on a global scale, if you do it right, you are doomed. As friends tell friends, as links lead to visits which lead to subscribers, the snowball rolls on towards that day like last Friday. RSS may have the potential to be a saver on bandwidth, but when you are getting hit once an hour or more by thousands of sites, 24,000 extra hits ads up, and it's all the worse when so many are using broken clients that ignore the caching rules.

The fact that Blogger is going with Atom is not really news. Its' been known by insiders for some time. Add to that fact that each of the Pyra boys (founders of Blogger) is currently using Atom for their own blog's feeds: Evan Williams, Steve Johnson, and Jason Shellen.

So, what is Atom? Start with this slideshow to learn the nitty-gritty. To summarize: Atom is "an initiative to develop a common syntax for syndication, archiving, and publishing. Sam Ruby (Emerging Technologies Group, IBM) is most often credited for originating the core ideas, and design work spread across several wikis and weblog Internet sites is now being shared by some of the brightest developer minds focused upon the future of Web content creation and distribution."

Atom "will be vendor neutral, implemented by everybody, freely extensible by anybody, and cleanly and thoroughly specified. Atom is sometimes characterized as the successor to RSS (Really Simple Syndication or RDF Site Summary), which is variably used for news headline syndication, website metadata description, and content syndication. Like RSS, Atom is being created through an informal consensus process by volunteers in the Web developer community at large." Learn more here.

Blogger has kept all of this pretty close to it's corporate vest. Although there have been no announcements, you can probably expect to see a roll-out by the end of this month. Those of you who have been patient will be rewarded. As for the Blogger users who have left because of a lack of RSS, my own opinion is that some news from the corporate level should have been forthcoming months ago. The Blogger users who have gone elsewhere won't be coming back. We'll be looking in the coming days at other questions this brings up, including the issue of whether Blogger has the muscle to push Atom as the new standard.