SSE, RSS, and Web data

Last week, Ray Ozzie started talking about a new specification from Microsoft called SSE.  SSE stands for simple sharing extensions to RSS and OPML.

Last week, Ray Ozzie started talking about a new specification from Microsoft called SSE.  SSE stands for simple sharing extensions to RSS and OPML.  As Dan Farber wrote on this blog when the announcement was made:

RSS syndicates information in a simple and straightforward way, but it's not bi-directional.  Ozzie's team created SSE to enable loosely-coupled applications to use RSS and OPML in a way that has bi-directional, asynchronous replication of new and changed items of two or more cross-subscribed feeds and outlines.

Maybe it was the timing--just before Thanksgiving holiday--It's a spec. Go forth and build something.but I could sense a collective yawn as people turned from digesting this rather technical news to digesting turkey. 

The spec is doing a few things from my perspective: (1) SSE brings RSS on par with Atom (which is already bi-directional) and ups the ante in certain ways.  (2) SSE keeps RSS in the ballgame.  I think having battling standards in this area is not a bad thing right now.  But, there's something more important.

RSS has had a big impact on how Web 2.0 has played out.  If you discount XHTML, RSS may be the most (some would say only) popular XML format in use outside the firewall.   Even so, RSS' (and Atom's) future may be even brighter.

In a recent article in ACM Queue, Google VP of Engineering Adam Bosworth describes the lessons we learned from the Web and how XML and relational databases break most of those lessons.  Bosworth puts forward RSS and Atom as solutions to these problems, outlining how RSS or Atom could serve as the generalized API to databases that scale in the same way the Web does.  

I think Adam makes some interesting points and so I saw an effort by Microsoft to bring RSS onto par with Atom's bi-directional API as an important development.  I've tried to follow some of the discussion and, not surprisingly, there's been a lot of worrying about what a Microsoft extension to anything means, why they didn't pick Atom, and so on.  There's one other thing that bears mentioning in this regard: Atom is endorsed (but not controlled or owned) by Google.  Google Mail, for example, doesn't have RSS feeds, just Atom feeds, even though it would be trivial to support both. 

Beyond the dueling titans angle, however, SSE moves us closer to realizing Adam's vision if only because it adds to the conversation and provides additional design points for all of us to consider.  I saw one comment in a discussion of SSE that asked: "When will Microsoft release SSE?"   That misses the point.  It's a spec, go forth and build something.  I'm anxious to see how it turns out. 


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