Avoid Really Skewed Semantics

In an interview with eWeek, Evan Williams of Blogger uses the terms Atom and RSS interchangeably:

... we're certainly excited about RSS. I've actually been using "RSS" as a generic term internally because for a lot of people, it's exactly what you said: That's what you hear about.

Of all the positions that can be taken in the RSS/Atom debate, Williams may have discovered the worst. Using the term "RSS" to describe Atom piles more confusion on a subject that a lot of people already find mind-boggling.

Generally, the reason to reinvent the language is to avoid giving a direct answer that might be impolitic. Instead of claiming to be excited about RSS, which Williams recently mothballed in Blogger, he should admit that as an early supporter of Atom who has been instrumental in its adoption, he believes in the format and wants RSS 1.0 and 2.0 to be eclipsed.

Though I disagree with that position, as you would expect from an advocate of RSS 2.0, I respect it. People who are still undecided about syndication formats should be told what you like and why you like it. Give them the information they need to support a format with confidence.


You sure did. I'm amazed by the whole
"Atom is RSS" thing. It's like the political trick of giving a new bill an name that does the exact opposite of what it says.

15. I'd suggest renaming Atom to RSS 3.0, in line with current industry best practices. ... posted by Bo at 05:59:59 PM on March 29, 2004

Did I call it or what?

Maybe I'm stirring the pot a little here, but isn't this a good thing that Evan Williams is using the term "RSS" for syndication technologies? Very broadly speaking, Atom is like RSS 1.0 is to RSS 2.0. ie all part of the same family. I've heard the term "webfeed" be thrown around as a generic term for RSS technologies. But if the Atom folk think that "RSS" should be the generic term, then even better because it's already (fairly) widely accepted. At leaset people will understand that we're all talking about the same thing - RSS. Whatever flavour you prefer (1.0, 2.0, Atom).

"I'm pretty sure users will end up thinking of Atom as a flavor of RSS."


Do you agree with that, Danny? I don't see how either RSS 2.0 or Atom benefits from being mistaken for the other.

Boy, you post one gag comment as your own subconscious, and Pycs.net won't let you hear the end of it.

I agree it's confusing, like using RSS for both 1.0 and 2.0 when they are at least as different to each other as Atom is to either, but I'm not sure anything can be done about that. RSS is already used as a generic name whether we like or not. I tend towards "syndicated feeds" myself.

I did find it quite funny, Evan making the connection RSS => Atom, after Dave had implied the connection Atom => RSS (and generally RSS => RSS 2.0). Propaganda meets propaganda...

Well, looking at this through the lens of the new "include Atom's content model in RSS" idea, maybe Evan had it backwards... ;)

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