Wow, lots of hullabaloo regarding Microsoft's recent announcements that they will have deep and broad support for RSS in the next release of Windows (Longhorn) and Internet Explorer 7. My take is that RSS is a good means of communicating a large variety of content to users and Microsoft is right: We have only scratched the surface of syndication as a technology and it is changing the way people use the web, even from a couple years ago. Not that this is any major revelation. Lots of people feel that way, Microsoft is just the first company to blow all this hot air that they are "betting all their chips" on this technology.

I watched the video with the Microsofties blabbling away about the potentials of RSS in Windows, showing us a preview of Longhorn and IE7, joking about RSS shoes, and being ultra-clear that their extension to RSS is non-obtrusive, backwards compatible and has been blessed by RSS creator-guru Dave Winer (can't you just hear how badly Microsoft wants to work its ways back into the hearts of developers and geeks? In fact Dave has a similar view here). Despite all these assurances, we still see ignorant folks lashing out about Microsoft's RSS extensions throughout the web. Ah well, trolls will be trolls.

I think the slogan "Browse, Search, Subscribe" is a great one. Three succinct words that sum up the evolution of the web over a decade. Not to mention that they make a nice acronym...

I think the possibilities of an operating system with a centralized feed list is a very powerful one, and I'm impressed by the few examples that were shown. But I did have to wonder about the Common Feed List. While I think it's great to have a feed list that all applications can point to, modify and use, I think it's a step backwards if it's maintained solely on that single box. What I hope is that Windows is configurable enough so that I can point the entire Windows box to go read my Common Feed List from a website (very similar to how sites like work). In fact, my Common Feed List should, of course, be a RSS feed of its own (a feed of feeds, like and it should be locatable at any URI (file: or http: or ...). In that way, if I work with multiple computers throughout a day (and a lot of us do), I don't have to maintain separate "Common Feed Lists" and struggle to keep them in sync. The hurdle here will be to enable the RSS API on Windows to be able to issue updates to the Common Feed List located on other platforms... but surely the RSS API will work over things like REST and SOAP and Atom as well as .NET, right? Right?

See, the thing that I'm worried about (cuz you just knew there's some great Microsoft conspiracy in my head over this one) is that everyone's getting dazzled by the possibilities of RSS everywhere in Windows and the idea of extending RSS and they're not focusing on the key aspect: Once a user or developer gets hooked on having a Common Feed List and a nice API to add/browse/modify the Common Feed List, they will not want to give that up. In other words, it's another thing that will tie him/her even tighter to the Windows platform. Microsoft has a history of locking people into using their products and I fear that the Common Feed List will be another such technique. I just hope Dave Winer is justified when he says "I hope people cut them some slack. This is not the world of 1995, nor is it the Microsoft of 1995."

Anyway, I hope somebody from the "Longhorn, Browsing and RSS" team reads this. I think your ideas are great, but please make the Common Feed List format open (i.e. another RSS/Atom feed itself) and locatable anywhere. Because if Common Feed Lists are maintained strictly in something like the Windows registry and only on the Windows box that I'm currently using, then you're going to be hearing even more mutterings of the phrase "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" in the near future.

§113 · June 24, 2005 · Software, Technology, Web · · [Print]

Leave a Comment to “Really Strange Surprise?”

  1. Rob says:

    It’s a surprise, but I don’t think it’s that strange. Embrace and extend is clearly their business model. As for ‘extinguish’, I guess that’s just the idea of proprietary lock-in. Tristan Louis has a couple references he points to that say adding lists to RSS is no addition at all. Apparently they’re part of RSS 1.0 but not RSS 2.0. I haven’t done all the follow-up yet, but I was beginning to suspect someone else must have done a feature like this in the years RSS has been out there.
    One other thing, MS has got everyone in the habit of saying things are “in” the operating system. Maybe I’m old-school but when I hear OS, I think of the kernal. Not the shell or the user interface that we all see and most software talks to through an API. Isn’t that what we’re talking about here? The shell? This is going on a lot longer than I meant to, but having feeds “in the OS” makes me think of the kernal checking for updates at Joel on Software between decisions about which task to run next and servicing an interrupt from a mouse click .

  2. (Score:2, Funny)

    Oh and the title of this entry was just the best thing I could think of late last night. I don’t think it’s particularly Strange either (hence the question mark). Can you think of a better word starting with “S”?

  3. Rob says:

    Wow, I can’t believe I missed the accronym.
    Right Sorry State I’m in. Really Straightforward to See now.