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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Atom: RSS World Getting Less Simple

"To manipulate the letters of the Book takes great piety, and we didn't have it. But every book is interwoven with the name of God. And we anagrammatized all the books of history, and we did it without praying."
– Umberto Eco, The Foucault's Pendulum


I recently read there's 9 RSS formats around. In case you haven't heard, RSS is the XML-based Really Simply Syndication format (amongst other abbreviations). It's the meta-data underlying every blog, and telling machines about its latest posts. Now as if we didn't have enough formats already, Google-owned offered its own new format: Atom.

"The battle between RSS and Atom has divided the blogging world since the summer, when critics of RSS came together to create an alternative format. Since then, a raft of blog sites and individuals have lined up behind Atom, while Yahoo has thrown its considerable weight behind RSS.

The Blogger decision to offer Atom only has angered supporters of RSS, who accuse Google of helping to splinter a wide network of RSS-using bloggers."
– Paul Festa, Bloggers threaten revolt after Google swaps standards (CNET), February 12, 2004

Dave Winer writes:

"Dear wheel reinventers. Please explain exactly what your format does that RSS doesn't and why it matters to users? If the answer is nothing, then just support RSS and let's compete at delighting users."
– Dave Winer, Scripting News, February 12, 2004

And then there's this Atom wiki explaining motivations

"RSS is five years old. It was designed for news sites, a way for them to list the stories they had. Things are different now, and RSS is mostly used as a way of sending around the content of weblogs. RSS has been kludged and pushed into this world, but it doesn't really fit."
Atom Wiki

So blogs are news, but news aren't blogs; RSS is Really Simple, but it's mostly not, and it's definitely not Atom. (Which is the new RSS, except it ain't.)

In the meantime, for my own blog, I have the choice of using either Atom or RSS, but cannot have both.


Well. So why don't we just settle for XHTML to solve our problems of meta formats? A well-written XHTML+CSS page has all we need, is not bloated, is based on XML, and as soon as we add some meta data right inside the file we got that really simple syndication. Not one extra file or funny orange button needed.

It's so easy. Next time instead of writing ...

<h3>My News Bit</h3>

... you would write ...

<h3 class="itemTitle">My News Bit</h3>

Oh wait, it's stylesheet compatible now too! This HTML thing is good.
And instead of writing a normal link we write ...

<a href="archive/2004/02/12/"
        rel="permalink" class="itemPermalink">Permalink</h3>

Yes, there already is a "rel" attribute, so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. It just happens to be pretty much unused, like most of the nice meta-approaches of the W3C. And we got the "title" element for a channel title, we got the meta-name "author" thingie for its author, date, and what-not. We could just use it and stop having bloated HTML. Because for the same reasons we got bloated HTML now, we soon have bloated RSS too, and we'll jump to the next format without looking back. And then, Atom makes way to Simplenews, which will be replaced by Quickblog, ... it will turn to a terrible geekmare to send a plain "hello" in any politically-correct, standards-compatible way between two computers without causing long discussion, endless patching, or otherwise refined gadgeteria.


To streamline communication and make sense of each others thoughts, humanity invented RSS, HTML, XML, OWL, SVG, SOAP, XSL, SMIL, CSS, WDL, RDF, CLR (and last not least TIFLB to make sense of all those TLAs). Yet I suppose we wake up from this and go back to simple text files with no markup anywhere close. After we see how well that works we'll be writing important things on paper only – and if we really think eternity needs it, we'll hammer it into stone.
After all, stone has been downwards-compatible for ages.

Queryster, Weird Meta Search

Queryster offers a variety of search engines for you to choose from. After that, it searches them, but manages to keep its own logo on the page (that’s screen-scraping). Hmm.

WebEye, German-language Keyword Analysis

If you speak German the Flash-based online SEO analyzer “WebEye” is for you. It will analyze your pages starting from a top-domain and give you a free, no-registering-needed and detailed report.


This is a great research and Google news resource I’ve added to my list:


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