RSS Ecosystem

Steve Gillmor starts off a discussion on RSS advising Microsoft that “the opportunity is RSS” adding that “Outlook’s anti-spam tools could easily be converted to proactive filters for an RSS routing engine” and “email will become a subset of the RSS space.” He gives more suggestions to Ballmer:

Adam Bosworth created Trident, the Internet Explorer engine. Marc Lucovsky created Hailstorm, a Web services decomposition of the Exchange mail, calendar, and schedule engine. And David Stutz created Rotor, the standards-based .Net engine. Add these toold together and you should have been able to create a browser-hosted read-write tool for sharing and routing information.

But IE’s edit control competed with Word, Hailstorm with Exchange (and eventually SQL Server) and .Net–well, with Windows. So after the Allchin Tax was applied, IE is now finally sucked into the OS where it belonged all along. Yukon will merge Exchange, SQL Server, and eventually the Windows FIle System, and .Net turns out to have been Windows all along.

We’ll get the long-promised Universal Canvas, but sorry folks it will have to be Windows end to end. IE will finally get a credible edit control because it’s now firmly part of the underlying OS. IE, Outlook, InfoPath and OneNote will converge into a powerful RSS information router for the Windows platform.

One small problem: not before 2005 or 6.

Steve, that’s a long time. Way too long for those of us who see an RSS-aware container as not just a killer app but a killer platform. Not long enough to stop Sun and Apple from combining forces and bringing NetNewsWire, Rendezvous, Hydra, Safari/Mozilla, and the J2SE runtime together.

Of course, this scenario depends on the power of RSS to compress time and drive productivity in the exchange of ideas and information. It’s the next step in iterative development: self-selecting groups of users and developers in a regenerative mesh network. Microsoft’s RSS engineers are already hard at work–they need buy in from the leadership and a core authoring object that plays fair across the XML blogosphere.

Dave Winer disagrees that email and RSS should be combined stating: “I absolutely don’t agree that the most powerful application of RSS is to flow it through mail readers. Then it’s just email (why not send the bits around by email if that’s how you’re going to read it).

Robert Scoble, who works at Microsoft, takes this discussion further:

First of all, Outlook is far beyond just email now (Dave uses Outlook Express, and doesn’t have access to a corporate information system where Outlook is used — Outlook, when combined with an Exchange Server, is far deeper than just Outlook Express).

I’m playing with five RSS News Aggregators. I’ll write a review soon. The upcoming FeedDemon (standalone Windows app), Sharp Reader (standalone Windows app), NewsGator (which runs in Outlook), Radio UserLand (runs on Windows or Mac), and RSS Bandit (standalone Windows app).

They all have their advantages. I do have to admit, I’m getting most used to NewsGator since it runs in Outlook. This means I can post to my blog without leaving Outlook. I greatly prefer reading RSS feeds there to reading them in the browser.

Dave asks what makes that different than email? Very easy: no spam.

Email’s signal-to-noise ratio sucks.

Oh, also, email is hard to post to a public site (yeah, I know, with Radio UserLand, I can do it). But, with NewsGator, I can read a news post, then post it myself to my weblog. Very cool. I’m just starting to play with this internally at Microsoft.

As for me, I do think that RSS aggregators as a separate category will not survive for long – they will get integrated into email. This is what we have done with our Info Aggregator. This entire post was created through the various items that I got in my email box via the aggregator. Its been a long time since I visited a weblog directly in a browser – the Info Aggregator takes care of getting me all the feeds which I can go through in my email client (be it Outlook or Evolution).

In fact, RSS is indeed the disruptive force – if only we start looking beyond news and weblogs. It can be the platform for a wide variety of publish-subscribe information services. For example, it could be used by enterprise applications to deliver status updates, alerts or notifications to users – the apps can publish RSS feeds to which users can subscribe. The alternative of providing perioidc reports is not good enough – the focus needs to be on the exceptions, rather than the normal. This is the thinking about the Emergic Topsight suite we are building made out of Traction, DigitalDashboard, Info Aggregator and Events Horizon.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.