Microsoft has announced its intention to fully support the RSS Web publishing standard in its next generation version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, along with plans to help application developers more easily create RSS-enabled applications for Windows.
Officials said the company is proposing its own Simple List extensions to RSS that will better allow the technology to support ordered lists of information. Presently, RSS feeds are sent and received as streams of messages with their order being determined only by the time they were sent. Microsoft's extensions are reportedly offering a way to add ordering information so RSS feeds can more intelligently handle, for instance, a Web site's list of best-selling items.
"The RSS [Simple List] extensions we are developing can allow a content publisher to enable a Web site to publish feeds that represent ordered lists of items. We will make these extensions widely available to developers through the Creative Commons [license]," said Megan Kidd, a group product manager on the Windows team.
Microsoft has already done some "baseline work at the platform level" that supports a range of basic functions that are contained in all applications that support RSS, which should help lighten their overall development effort.
"RSS feeds now come through Weblogs but it will go way beyond that. For instance, if you are at a conference and go to that Web site, subscribe to a feed that has all the conference information, you can have an RSS feed right into your calendar application like Outlook that will automatically update you on all changes being made at the conference like keynotes and sessions," Kidd said.
Some industry observers were encouraged not only by Microsoft's endorsement of the technology, but also because the software giant appears uninterested in dominating the technology and is being proactive in trying to help create commercial opportunities for other application developers.
"When Microsoft would talk about embracing and extending a technology, many would interpret that as engulfing and devouring. In this case, they seem to be really going out of their way to talk about extending but not co-opting this technology. The fact they are releasing this under the Creative Commons License, the same license that RSS is released under, is a pretty big deal in and of itself," said Michael Gartenberg, a vice president and research director at Jupiter Research.
Another upside for Microsoft, according to Gartenberg and others, is that the inclusion of RSS in Longhorn, along with the commitment to help ISVs create compatible applications, is that it builds more interest around Longhorn among developers and users, something the upcoming product needs.
"This should get developers a little more pumped up over Longhorn," Gartenberg said.
The downside about the move however, is that many smaller developers with RSS technologies will have the added pressure of having to be more innovative with their applications in order to stay ahead of much larger developers as RSS-based products become more of a commodity.
Asked about Microsoft's plans to incorporate RSS support into its upcoming Office 12 suite of desktop applications, Kidd said, "you can expect to see some functionality with Outlook," but that the company has yet to formulate any specific plans.
Microsoft will also make it easier for users to discover feeds within their browsers by illuminating icons that allow them to easily see what RSS feeds are available to them at any given moment. The company will also allow users to view the feed live from within the browser, which Kidd said is not available today.
"They will be able to actually see the feed, pick the one they want to subscribe to. We want to make it a one click experience," Kidd said.
Microsoft is expected to make the announcement Friday at the Gnomedex conference in Seattle.
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