Tim Bray Interview

ACM Queue has an interview with Tim Bray, who “founded a visualization software company called Antarctica Systems. He joined Sun Microsystems in 2004 as director of Web technologies.” Tim talks about what he’s currently doing:

I should talk a little bit about syndication because thats really where a large proportion of my energies are going. Clearly, if you look at RSS (Really Simple Syndication), and you look at the growth rates and adoption curves, it looks a whole lot like what we saw on the Web in 93 and 94. There are currently more than 3 million syndication feeds. Theyre growing at the rate of approximately 14,000 per day. There are on the order of 300,000 new posts per day, and those curves all have that same shape that we were looking at 10 years ago.

This is hot stuff. People are using it. Clearly this is a new model of communicating information that has some sort of a sweet spot in the spectrum of communications. We dont know what it is yet because were just getting into this. But clearly, people like it.

Two issues have come out of this. One is the whole notion of the spectrum of communication. If I wish to interact with somebody, I have a lot of choices: I can sit down in a room with that person, like I am with you; or I can talk over the phone or, increasingly, over videophone; or I can chat on IRC (Internet Relay Chat); or I can send an e-mail, post to my blog, or work on paper.

The incremental cost of a small or medium quantum of communication is about the same in all of themits about zero. So, were faced with a choice about how were going to deal out our communications across this menu of media. It should be fun to watch.

In any case, the world of RSS has been kind of wild and woolly and prone to flaming and bad behavior, and partly as a result, there are a lot of versions and none of them is specified that well. So Im co-chairing an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) working group that is publishing a protocol under the name Atom that tries to capture all of the prior art in this stage and might provide a good basis for winding down the syndication wars. I think its going to have an impact.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.