Clarifying Namespace Support in RSS 2.0

Randy Charles Morin has proposed the addition of four words to the RSS 2.0 specification (emphasis added):

In the section Extending RSS, we propose that the following sentence be changed:

"A RSS feed may contain elements not described on this page, only if those elements are defined in a namespace."

It should be revised to read as follows:

"A RSS feed may contain elements and attributes not described on this page, only if those elements and attributes are defined in a namespace."

This proposal was the subject of a pre-emptive strike Monday by Sam Ruby, who regards it as "positively breathtaking" that I would reach this conclusion after examining the issue in October and again this month on RSS-Public, the board's mailing list.

I respect Ruby's knowledge of XML and syndication formats, but this is one of the rare instances where I have the pleasure of saying that he's completely wrong. The RSS 2.0 spec does not forbid namespace attributes to core elements. There was never any expressed intent to do that back in 2002, and if they were forbidden, every RSS feed that declares a namespace in the rss element would be invalid. (We're talking millions of feeds.)

As Ruby points out, I thought otherwise the first time we hashed out this issue back in October. I was wrong.


For years, some people complained about the ambiguity of the RSS 2.0 spec. Now that we`re doing something about it, they still complain. Hypocrites.

Dare Obasanjo:

it stands to reason that it is quite possible for a format to restrict namespaced attributes while still allowing namespace declarations.

But, this isn't about reason, is it?

So... what are you going to name this new format?

The RSS 2.0 spec is licensed under a permissive creative commons license which allows the creation of derivative works. But it makes the polite request that such work happens in new formats with new names.

But, this isn't about being polite either, is it?

The RSS Advisory Board is doing today exactly what it has done for the past four years -- considering minor revisions to the RSS 2.0 specification, which were anticipated in the roadmap.

Although it's certainly possible for a format to restrict namespace attributes while permitting namespace elements, there's no reason to believe this is true in RSS 2.0 and significant reasons to believe it isn't.

Ask the author.

Dave Winer resigned from the board in 2004. If he makes a comment on how the spec should be interpreted in this area, or you want to approach him to make his opinion known, it would of course be given strong consideration.

As far as I know, though, Winer never makes an interpretive comment about RSS 2.0 without the disclaimer that it's "not spec text," as he did in 2004 regarding item enclosures.

So if any clarity is forthcoming on the issue of namespace attributes, it's going to come from the RSS Advisory Board.


How refreshing to see you simply admit "I was wrong". And then do what you think is the right thing.

Keep trying to reduce ambiguity and not break anything important. No one should reasonably ask for more.

Standards work should always be about 'reason' and should be as polite as reason would allow.

Good luck.

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