Microsoft gives RSS a big bear hug

Microsoft gives RSS a big bear hug

Summary: Bump this up to milestone from the level of "me-too" on the scale of adoption.

TOPICS: Microsoft
We reckoned Microsoft at the PDC 05 here in LA this week would show off an RSS aggregating capability in IE 7. This, when the browser update emerges in about a year with the GA of Windows Vista, would make RSS feeds easily and nearly ubiquitously available to the masses the world over. It would catch up to Firefox, Opera, and Safari, not to mention all the available standalone readers. This was good.

But, man, I was not prepared for the deep, nay pervasive, use of RSS across the Microsoft palette of pending products. Indeed, Chairman and Chief Architect Bill Gates in his keynote presentation Tuesday described standardized and open subscription as the next major stop on the continuum of digital relationships. Bump this up to platform milestone from the level of "me-too" application feature on the scale of adoption.

Microsoft is using RSS 2.0 as a major conduit of myriad content -- including business-to-business applications interactions -- inside, across, and for wide area import/export of feeds throughout its software systems. Remember the digital nervous system? Well, RSS just became a new variety of spine. Very cool. This is near and dear to my heart.

According to Microsoft, in IE 7, expect powerful auto discovery of feeds, with a graphical, orderly and indexed view of the feeds available and/or in use as subscriptions. Businesses will be quickly able to use RSS to link their cross-organizational activities -- first for informational purposes, but quickly elevating, I forecast, to process-level and potentially workflow efficiencies. There will be RSS feeds in tools, in business apps, within the platform, and as an adjunct to the Windows Communications Foundation. Expect its use across media types. RSS will also pick up where OLE left off long ago when it comes to parlaying information in automated and sequential distribution among and between XML-rich Office applications.

This may not be as momentous as when Gates shocked the world in December 1995 when he lurched the good ship Microsoft toward the Internet. It may not be as surprising as when he made pigs fly with his licensing of Java not long afterward. But Microsoft's pervasive embrace of RSS as not just a technology but as a paradigm is nonetheless a significant development in the evolution of PC technology.

The capitalization on RSS as a productivity catalyst by users and business is just beginning. Microsoft is assuring that this is a fait accompli. Now is the time for creative experimentation and innovative thought leadership about how these RSS capabilities can improve knowledge flow and spur a more connected, collaborative, and communal world.

Obviously, I commend Microsoft's embrace and extension of RSS. But my cynical gene is tingling a tad, too. I find it not just a little ironic that RSS is being used by Microsoft to sidestep the use of Internet protocols to connect users, content, applications, tools, and platforms. RSS is now a pillar of Microsoft's strategy to make loosely coupled client/server the preferred architecture to Web-based thin client computing.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • For the 6th time

    I have posed the same question 6 times now - with no responses. It is a simple question - What does RSS give you that NeWS doesn't? Its not that I'm some glaringly clueless person on RSS - it just seems to me an updated NeWS that's more user-configurable/friendly. Instead of using a nice standard like EMAIL to send out "feeds", RSS uses a new-fangled message handler that isn't compatable with anything non-RSS. Is my observation true?
    Roger Ramjet
    • very simple

      At the bottom, you will find why NeWS failed.

      NeWS needed to be licensed from Sun, while the source code for the X Window System was freely distributed under the MIT License. Any commercial code shipped using the NeWS libraries required licensing fees to be paid to Sun, Adobe Systems, and Xerox PARC.
      The rest of the UNIX Workstation market was still catching up with other emerging network technologies that were invented by Sun (namely NFS). The rest of the UNIX Workstation market rushed to support the X Window System in an effort to undermine Sun's technology lead.
      NeWS lacked a robust library of reuseable code until well after the X Window System had become the dominant paradigm. This mistake was obviously not repeated in Java.
      PostScript is not a good programming language for humans. NeWS tried to make PostScript programming easier by adding object oriented extensions, but this did little to overcome the unfamiliarity of most software developers with the underlying PostScript language's syntax. Several "compilers" from C-like syntax such as pdb (PostScript Done Better) and c2ps were available, but were cumbersome to use and not supported by Sun.
      Writing NeWS apps required coding both client-side code and server-side code in two different programming languages. Communication between the two sides was very undeveloped and quite difficult.
      NeWS may have been ahead of its time and user requirements in the sophistication level of its graphical and user-interface capabilities.
      NeWS had much less of an advantage when the client and server ran on the same machine, and the network computing model never took off sufficiently to justify the extra complexity.

      Firefox has the best implementation that I have seen thus far. Sorry, but Opera's version takes up way too much screen to justify using it.

      Firefox uses this as "Live Bookmarks" Which by itself seems to work very very well for people like me who don't care to read through every front page description on ZDnet.

      That and it is out of the way enough.

      I don't see what IE 7 will offer that others can't get a handle on. Better yet, why has IE taken soo long to get this concept out.
  • RSS must die [nt]

    • And why do you say that.

      RSS owns big time. It gives me a quick view of all my favorite news sites, giving me less time jumping around from page to page, and cuts out on all of those lovely front page annoying ZDnet ads.
  • Micosoft "Block and Bore!"

    So Microsoft have demo'd RSS support a host of tabbed UI interfaces and an Ajax development platform - Atlas. So what!

    When will we get all of these new platforms, apps and tools - "Second half of 2006" according to Gates. Nearly 12 months from now and that's - IF - there are no beta delays, features changes or withdrawls.

    Scoble said we would feel "Shock and Awe" in the PDC's keynote. I think it is more "Block and Bore". Show the developers a glimpse of the future and then try and stop people from developing on other platforms - LAMP or with other developer tools.

    This has always been the case with Microsoft in the past. FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - is a key Microsoft strategy. Remember the announcement of Microsoft "Cairo" and the object file system.

    I remain confident that "no one {person or company} is cleverer than everyone" and that the open source movement will continue to innovate and prevail. Microsoft would be better off paying its $2billion R&D money to the open source projects - at least they could point to new innovations that Microsoft had a hand in rather than just copying the market - as the PDC keynote demo showed.