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Microsoft Embraces and Extends RSS

There has been a lot of coverage already about Microsoft’s RSS in Longhorn announcements, so my aim here is to distil it and get to the essence of it. I’m doing this for my own benefit really, but hopefully my notes help others grok it too.

The obvious place to start is Robert Scoble’s blog
(Microsoft’s most famous blogger). But I also recommend Alex Barnett’s coverage.


The Microsoft
Internet Explorer Blog
announced the news. The key points:

– “deep platform support for RSS” is being built into Longhorn (the next version of

– they are are targeting both users and developers

a) users: “make it easy for users to discover, view and subscribe to RSS feeds”

b) developers: “make it simple for developers to incorporate the rich capabilities of RSS
into their applications”

– An RSS Aggregator/Reader will be integrated into Longhorn: “you’ll be able to
subscribe to an RSS feed as easily as adding a favorite”.

– one of the goals is to enable developers to create non-blog applications for RSS (this
is very significant). An example: “an IT worker can subscribe to sales data that notifies
them via a line-of-business application when new deals have been closed.”

– Microsoft also announced “enhancements to RSS, which we call the Simple List
Extensions”. It will enable users to publish, for example, “photo albums, music playlists
and Top 10 lists as RSS feeds”.

– Further, they made “the specification for these extensions available under the Creative
Commons license, the same license under which the RSS 2.0 specification was

RSS in Longhorn details

More details are to be found on this page
in the MSDN network. Developers should carefully read
this page
in particular. 

The video that Robert
Scoble did
with the “Longhorn, Browsing and RSS team” (nee the IE Team) is
illuminating and it includes a demo for those of us who couldn’t make it to Gnomedex

Key quotes from the video by Dean Hachamovitch, GM for this team: 

– “RSS is many things” 

– this is about “how RSS moves out of blogs and becomes much broader.” 

– “RSS everywhere… every application” 

– “The power of subscribe…” 

– “casting” for all the file types: “where’s the calendar-casting, powerpoint-casting”
etc -> i.e. enclosures are much more than podcasting (mp3 files)

– “we’re betting big on RSS”

– talk about “an RSS platform” to “RSS-enable everything”… “RSS is too good to be in
just browsers and aggregators”.

– what MS is doing with RSS extensions is “very complimentary” to what Dave Winer is
doing (hierarchical lists with OPML)

– emphasis (again) on “RSS everywhere” – “we mean everywhere!” (leads to talk
about Dean’s orange RSS shoes – funny)

Then the team showed Internet Explorer in Longhorn in action. Key points:

– there’s a highlighted orange RSS button (and note it does say “RSS” and not “XML”, as I
do on my blog incidentally) in the top browser bar. This is automatically present
whenever the browser picks up an RSS feed on a webpage.

– when clicked, the RSS button brings up a browser-friendly version of the feed (like
Feedburner does for my feed)

– has a search function

– big “plus button” for subscribing

– same metaphor for subscribing as adding an HTML page to a user’s Favorites in IE –> term
used was “common feed list”

Other Views

Jupiter’s Microsoft
Monitor Research
on how it’ll affect the competition: “The risk I see for competitors
is simple: RSS is fairly portable today. By integrating capabilities into Windows,
Microsoft could decrease that portability in favor of Windows.”

– and partners: “The benefit to Microsoft partners is mixed, but mostly good […] Exactly what market would there be for third-party products if Microsoft makes RSS a part
of Windows?”

– how serious are MS?: “My expectation: RSS will be a major or the major
feature of the Longhorn shell.” [RM: whoa!]

more from
: “it’s reasonable to suspect that Microsoft sees in RSS a new user
interface for accessing Internet content.”

: “Microsoft is better off embracing, extending and extinguishing RSS as a
competitive threat.” [RM: that’s what I call not mincing words!]

: “My optimistic view here though is that they will get it right and keep it
open for everyone and that today we witnessed a milestone day in the history of the

“[Jupiter Analyst Michael Gartenberg] estimates that about 10% of U.S. Web surfers use
RSS readers, software designed to view feeds from Web sites. “This is the type of thing
that will bring it into the mainstream,” Gartenberg says.”

Eric Freeman, O’ReillyNet:
“what Microsoft has done is essentially build an RSS aggregator into the OS and expose
API’s that any application can make use of to produce or consume RSS.”

More updates later… I’m continuing to absorb this news. My initial impression is
that this is indeed very big – possibly even Microsoft acknowledging that RSS is to
Web 2.0 what HTML was to the Web in the 90’s
. Which is to say, this is Microsoft
embracing and extending RSS like they did with HTML 10
years ago
. I’ll leave the question open, for now, as to whether they’ll be as ruthless in this strategy as they were in Web 1.0. More from me later…

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