More on Google's Atom bomb

More information on Google's support for Atom and abandonment of RSS: One post on Blogger Blog, an independent site devoted to the software, indicates that the only syndication format available to "standard Blogger users" is Atom. Everybody else can choose RSS or Atom, but not both.

In a subsequent post, a Google employee indicates that "legacy support" will continue to be provided for RSS among Blogger users who have been offering a feed in that format.

If Google had no syndication support in Blogger, I could understand why it might decide to offer only one format and pick Atom over RSS. Atom is an interesting new format, though personally I think it would be misguided for weblog publishing software not to support RSS and thousands of existing users.

However, because the company has functional code in Blogger that supports RSS, the only reason not to offer that feature to customers in addition to Atom is political -- yet another volley in a long feud among developers regarding the subject.

Do you really want a company as powerful as Google withholding its support for a popular Internet protocol strictly to promote an alternative format?


It's especially silly if you think about Atom only being a 0.3 spec that still is in flux. They not only abandon all RSS code out there, they even hop on board for something that's not fully spec'ed. So you can expect them to bully their way in discussions about the spec if people want to change the direction of Atom. Think about a format rework for 0.4 that includes stuff they didn't anticipate in their internal implementation. Do you think they will be happy with that, or do you think they will try to stop that? I don't want to sound like Dave Winer, but it's definitely not a wise choice by Google. And not a very friendly one.

What we need is an aggregator in IE that handles RSS and enclosures. That would put an end to much of the debate.

Some of us don't use IE. Making yourself dependant on Microsoft is just a silly as making yourself dependant on Google. Actually, I think an aggregator in IE would just create more debate. ;)

Atom's getting closer to version 1.0 -- it's up to version 0.9 and is being submitted to the IETF.

Maybe not political, but financial, as I interpret the quote from the google employee, I wonder if RSS is being used as a feature to get people to pay for premium services....

Deploying Atom as the exclusive syndication format for all those thousands of Blogger blogs provides a very tangible incentive to aggregator vendors to support Atom, and helps push the posting API forward among vendors of other blogging apps. Most of the people who see this as bad have a vested interest in the status quo.

0.9 is the API, not the syndication format.

And although RSS was one of the reasons to buy Pro, they discontinued Pro quite a while back: now you can't pay for Blogger even if you want to.

Dave Walker: It's easy to explain what Atom has to gain from this move. But what does Google have to gain by withholding support for an existing syndication format while it is adopting a competing format? This move fails the if-Microsoft-did-it test big time.

Rogers: that would be a valid argument iff Google controlled the Atom spec. In fact, some of the most active contributors/implementors of the spec (SixApart, LiveJournal among them) are direct competitors of Google's in the social software space.

I don't see how any of that is germane. Google's throwing its weight around to promote a new, not-even-finished syndication format and choosing to intentionally withhold support for an existing de facto standard. Do you want Google or any other big company to ignore existing protocols (with sizeable audiences) in this manner? What if Microsoft decides in six months to do the same to Atom?

I don't see Microsoft doing anything meaningful in this space until Longhorn ships, which is to say it's so far off it's hardly worth discussing. If they come up with something that's not, it'll probably get used, but they'll be entering a marketplace with thousands of extant RSS and Atom supporting applications. Google hardly has a market-dominating position in weblogs or syndication.

Competition thus far in his space has been, I would argue, overall a positive. Do you think we would have seen the RSS spec handed over to a public institution without the competitive threat posed by Atom? Do you think having a rigorously specified, IETF-ratified way to do syndication is somehow a bad thing?

I simply don't understand all the hand-wringing. Syndication as an idea is entrenched -- for the forseeable future we will have feeds (both of weblogs and of other data sources we haven't even imagined yet.) Applications and toolkits will continue to evolve to support the established formats and whatever they evolve into. This is not a zero-sum game. Don't fall for the hysteria.

Competition is great; I'm glad Atom is around. But Google isn't allowing Blogger users to enjoy the benefits of this competition. Old Blogger Pro users must dump RSS to use Atom. Other Blogger users only get Atom.

Blogger users who already produced RSS feeds can continue to do so, Blogger users who never had feeds of any sort before now have feeds for free. I'm failing to see the problem here.

"Blogger users who already produced RSS feeds can continue to do so ..."

Only if they change their site feed setting from RSS to Atom. As this Blogger Blog post indicates, the option is Atom or RSS. You can't choose both.

Why is that a problem?

Ask the people who'd like to support existing RSS users and Atom early adopters.

If Blogger isn't meeting those folks needs, then there are other blogging systems that will. If Blogger customers aren't satisfied with their level of service, then they'll vote with their feet. That's the essence of competition. Movable Type, Blosxom, and LiveJournal can all be configured to produce both feed types in parallel.

Excellent, d.w. : "This is not a zero-sum game."

I too have doubts about Blogger's wisdom in offering RSS or Atom, but what's the big deal?

Quite a large proportion of aggregators already support Atom, and it's still a long way from being version 1.0. It's a net gain for the end user.

This whole Atom thing is driving me nuts... have you successfully posted to Blogger's Atom API using PHP? That is what I'm trying to do, and it seems impossible. all the documentation on the web (I've been searching for days or weeks) doesn't work! Aargh!

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