While Microsoft is putting its considerable weight behind RSS 2.0 with integration into IE7 and Vista, Google is gung-ho for rival RSS format Atom. Although RSS 2.0 has been adopted by the vast majority of companies, Atom is said by many developers to be more extensible and better able to scale for the future.
Google has been pushing Atom for a while now, with Atom getting equal footing with RSS 2.0 in Google News for instance. "I really think Atom is the future of syndication." Google's Blogger product - still the biggest blog authoring tool on the planet - actually prefers Atom over RSS 2.0. Blogger notes (rather unhelpfully) at the bottom of its help pages that "if you would rather have RSS, give FeedBurner a try." It doesn't get much plainer than that about what format Google prefers.
So we know that Google really likes Atom, but I hadn't heard of a Google employee actually stating it in so many words. But at the Microsoft Mix '06 event yesterday, Google employee Patrick Chanezon (an Adwords evangelist) said in an interview with Microsoft's Channel 9 that Google is "very bullish" on Atom. Patrick said:
"Instead of taking Atom as the rich content model for feeds at the implementation layer, you [Microsoft] took RSS 2.0 - which obliges you to do all kind of translations. [...] I really think this [Atom] is the future of syndication. At Google we're very bullish for Atom. [...] As Gates said in his speech, feeds usage will skyrocket in the next few years - but Atom is a much more solid format for that kind of growth."
The Microsoft interviewer retorted that RSS has the same "good enough" attribute that drove the adoption of MP3. Google's Patrick wasn't buying that argument and he and the Microsoft interviewer ended by agreeing to disagree.
The RSS wars have been long and bitter, but it'll be interesting to see how much support Google gives to Atom. Although it may be technically strong, Atom is still struggling to get major take-up from companies and vendors. However with an 800-pound gorilla named Google giving it a big push, Atom's time may yet come. We already know that the other gorilla is pushing RSS 2.0 pretty hard. As yet we haven't seen as much Atom innovation from Google.