Private Syndication Feeds

Tim Bray points to an article by David Berlind:

For example, what if eBay had to contact only some of its customers. Why not have a separate feed for every customer? This is the same thinking that went into another idea I had — overnight shippers setting up separate RSS feeds for every package they handle. This way, I can subscribe to packages I’m sending or receiving, and my RSS aggregator (Newsgator, etc.) alerts me to changes in each package’s status. To keep a lid on the number of RSS feeds a shipper must run, the RSS feed for each package would expire a few days after the package arrives.

Use of RSS in such a one-to-one fashion does raise other questions, however. For example, can existing RSS-enabled systems reasonably scale to this level of service, and what would it mean for networks including the Internet? Also, what happens if malware finds its way onto users’ systems? Could it, unbeknownst to the user, change the settings of an RSS subscription to poll a malicious feed — and what can be done (such as securing the RSS client) to prevent that from happening? Finally, could widespread use of this approach be the backdoor towards flipping all existing e-mail solutions on their ear, turning them from SMTP-based store-and-forward systems to RSS-based alert-poll-and-retrieve systems (alert my mail server of an RSS feed that has something for me, poll that feed, and retrieve the message)? Running e-mail this way would make it very difficult for spammers to cover their tracks.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.