The Politics of RSS

By Deane Barker on June 3, 2003

Let’s get ready, now: This is a little look into what’s shaping up as a political battle over RSS. Apparently the major blog systems can’t settle on a standard, and Dave Winer has a brutal (yet probably accurate) explanation on how Bill Gates is going to use this to his advantage:

“Here’s how Microsoft is going to f**k all of us. Their blogging tool will support RSS 2.0. Basic stuff like title, link, description, and maybe to be nice, a few extras like guid, category, and generator. Then they’re going to define a namespace with poorly documented stuff the rest of us don’t understand. Some of us will support Microsoft’s extensions, others won’t. Either way it won’t matter. They’ll be able to say they’re supporting the standard and we won’t be able to say they’re not. And they’ll add and subtract features unpredictably until users get the idea that it’s safer just to stay with MS, and they’ll own yet another market.”

He’s got a point. Microsoft has had a history of “Triple-E” — Embrace, Extend, and Eliminate.

It starts out as “Sure we’ll support that standard.” Then it becomes, “Well, we just want to add a few things to it that we think it should support. But we’re still in compliance because we support everything in the standard.” Finally it ends up as, “Okay, now that everyone is using our proprietary extensions and thus can’t move off our platform, we’re going to stop supporting the standard and make our own.” It’s happened before.