In 2007, the RSS Advisory Board published the RSS Best Practices Profile, our advice for how to produce RSS feeds that work best in the wide variety of feed readers, web browsers and other software that consumes feeds. The RSS specification is poorly written in several areas, leading to disagreement over the correct way to do things. We wanted to help programmers and web publishers avoid these hassles.
The programs tested as we drafted the profile were Bloglines, BottomFeeder 4.4, Feed Demon 2.5 (188.8.131.52), Google Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 2.0 (2.0.9), My Yahoo, NewsGator Online and Opera 9.
Since then, Google Reader and NewsGator Online shut down, Bloglines moved to a new software platform and FeedDemon is up to version 4.5. Web browsers all have significant upgrades and Google Chrome has sprung into existence.
I thought it was time to look at whether all of the profile's advice is appropriate with current feed reading software. As the first step, I posed this question today on the RSS-Public mailing list:
What software do you currently use to read RSS feeds?
For years, I read feeds primarily with Bloglines. I moved to Google Reader and when it was killed (sigh), I switched to Feedly after a few months where I didn't read feeds at all. For podcasts, I use Apple iTunes.
I was clearing out old saved web pages when I found an amusing weblog post from the syndication wars. Here's Robert Sayre back in 2006:
I just left a response on Mihai Parparita's blog, hitting back at Mark Pilgrim, after he decided say that I am full of ---- about everything. Well, that's not very nice, but I've certainly said and written some not-very-nice things myself. It's refreshing to hear it out in the open, instead of backchannel conversations.
I'm so tired of all this crap, and I'm as guilty as anyone. Where do the problems come from? Are the people involved intrinsically bad? I don't think so, at least I hope I'm not intrinsically bad, and I don't think anyone else is either. In fact, most of the usual suspects are really productive people. Dare Obasanjo, Sam Ruby, Mark Pilgrim, Dave Winer, Tim Bray, Joe Gregorio, Rogers Cadenhead, etc, etc. These are all people that tend to, in other areas, get ---- done without much controversy, but can turn into the most obstinate jerks on a syndication mailling list. You wouldn't believe the ---- people say behind each other's back, either. It's much worse than what you encounter on the unpleasant mailing lists.
Why is it that they are drawn to this cesspool we're calling a conversation? I think it's a combination of two things: one is that the subject is mostly semantics. This allows for lots of conversation, and not much technical testing. In most open source projects, there are usually some reasonable metrics to test a proposed solution. The second problem is that software companies are guilty of first-order abuse of the term "community." There is no community.
Hacking on Wordpress last Thursday, I was surprised at how much fun I was having. I haven't had fun working on anything remotely related to syndication in a long time, other than working on Mozilla. You know, that's what I'm going to do from now on. Have fun.
When I rediscovered this post, I was excited to make Sayre's list of jerks, since I didn't figure I would rate a mention back then. All my efforts were not in vain.
Sayre went on to work for Mozilla and is still there today, so I guess it really was more fun than fighting over RSS like the Sharks and Jets. I think that after 10 years, the continuously burning RSS flamewar has finally burned itself out. These days, if you want to design a web format with people who are full of ---- about everything and could possibly be intrinsically bad, the place to be is HTML 5.